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Calling it what it is with the ALA and LifeStream

Fired up on a Friday. Great to have you in " and I will not let you down." That is the governor of DeSantis quote making its way around the internet as a meme because of the forced smile after he says it. Look, don't get me wrong, local campaigning can be a grind so I can only imagine that national campaigning while holding the chief executive job of your state is absolutely no fun at all. But why is it so hard to smile? But you know who else wasn't smiling? Former President Donald Trump as his mugshot from Georgia was released late last night. What a world we live in right now, and I'm here for all of it.


Given it's craziness though, I'll stick to local as long as I can. The only local headline on the front page of the paper this morning was a 5-1 vote to withhold the $275 membership fee to the American library association in protest of its current leadership. I assume we paid this in Publix coupons so the ALA will have to stick to bogos if they want to survive, but on a serious note, this will be part of our main topic today.


In fact, today we're going to be talking about two different things and how they relate to each other, but neither will be a direct reaction to anything published in the local commentary this morning. The chronicle editorial was a defense of councilman ken frink's appointment which concluded as many of us have that the voters will decide if they felt it was appropriate when a special election takes place next March. However, I have to say, I usually am pretty tough on the chronicle editorial board, but whoever wrote this one I do like the style of. I don't necessarily agree with all of it, but I do think it's insightful and well-crafted.


The Just Wright Citrus piece today was covering the reaction to Mike Wright's non-announcement announcement in the chronicle last Sunday that he will run for county commission. Mike can be tongue in cheek with a lot of the lines that he writes, it's often very humorous, but there is one that made me raise my eyebrows in today's piece.


Yesterday I talked about businesses going off brand. One that I left out was Burger King. Fellow fast food rival Wendy's had become notorious for stirring social media controversy. 2 years ago on international women's day in March, Burger King tried their hand at it. The UK account tweeted women belong in the kitchen… on International Women's Day. Now this was followed up with a rousing thread saying only if they want to and BK will be giving out culinary scholarships to women, but the damage had been done. The attempt at catching headlines didn't bother me. What bothered me was their response. The king of burgers would have failed PR 101 because they apologized, deleted the tweet which never gets deleted because it's the internet, and worst of all said they didn't know it would be offensive. They didn't know? You're tweeting the most sexist trope since income inequality and you don't know people are going to interpret it wrong? I don't mind companies trying their hands at new things, even provocative ones, but don't pretend like you don't know what you're doing. If it backfires, it backfires. It's disingenuous.


And now for a line from today's Just Wright Citrus," an apology is in order. It was not my intention to mislead anyone." Say what you want, but this doesn't feel tongue in cheek to me. It feels like it's exactly what he means, that it was not his intention to mislead anyone. Except, it was. That's the only intention of the piece, you can say that it was meant to be a commentary on growth policy, but it wasn't. It was a fishing expedition to get the comments it did and the disingenuous claim of intention is very Burger Kingesque to me. The ending analysis commenting on the Right Rudder contract situation as an afterthought was as shallow as a desert pond in the middle of July. But I've covered it in depth here and the result was a win for all. So today we are moving on to bigger and better things. Let's get to those now.


Last night for dinner I had a hand prepped cheeseburger with a side of lightly salted potatoes and a starter course of all white meat chicken. Depending on when you're listening to this, that might sound pretty good right now. But I was sick all night. Because what I'm actually describing was a large double quarter pounder with cheese meal and 10 chicken nuggets, I'm on a fast food kick today apparently.


What we call something and what something actually is can be two different things. We know this. But certain biases can get in the way of remembering it. One of my worst biases is the appeal to authority. Maybe this stems from the process of academics building off one another that a certain degree of trust in established work is necessary, although so is a certain degree of skepticism, or maybe it's a heightened moral foundation of authority common in the ideological, right, we haven't talked about moral foundations a ton in these most recent shows but there are six of them, two most associated with the ideological left and four on the right.


Either way, it takes a lot more effort for me to challenge authority than it does to accept it. This is why up until the commission meeting Tuesday, I was pro continuing membership in the American library association. That view has changed. It's possible that your biases on the issue stem from social identity theory. Tajfels 1970s masterpiece model blade the foundation for how we separate into in groups and out groups and just how difficult compromise among these categorizations can be. The people pushing for the ALA protest in the form of withdrawing membership might be in your in-group, but my guess is they are likely in your outgroup so it can be difficult to reconcile agreeing with any position they take. I understand that. Doesn't mean they're wrong.


My one remaining voice of reason arguing why the county should have maintained membership is because I always try to separate the organization from the people who run it and still support the organization even in the face of contentious disagreement with leadership. Most obvious example is the country right now. Love, America , despise the leadership. In 2020, this philosophy was extended to the chamber, and mercifully. It won't be as contentious as 4 years ago this time around but that remains to be seen. Regardless of how heated my debates with chamber leadership got, I never blamed the organization for that.


To apply that same philosophy here, I certainly disagree with the ALAs current leadership but believe in a governing body for libraries, however, sometimes you have to send a message and are advisory board as well as county commission appear to be poised to do that, it's justified in this case, and just because the ALA is called the national standard of what libraries can aspire to be, it does not mean that is what it is in reality. Just like my dinner last night.


Let's pivot this just once and talk about life stream. A little! Background: live stream was hired as the mental health provider of the county about 5 years ago with the soul purpose of building a mental health facility in citrus. Based in Leesburg in lake county, Baker act, patients and others suffering from mental illness have been transported to counties east for treatment during this half decade. The board relatively recently voted to give life stream 2 million toward building that citrus county facility, as did Hernando county and the state contributed as well, but life stream will own the facility, although they will be forced to pay back a prorated portion of the 2 million if they lose the county contract over the next 15 years. That was all just for the building. The contract before the board this past Tuesday was for the services rendered in the facility.


Live stream was asking for an amendment to several of the previously agreed upon terms of service, such as changing that live stream will provide a minimum of three appropriate medical staffing, at least one of which will be a psychiatrist on site at the facility to simply say appropriate medical staffing on site. This removes the number that would be required as well as the qualifications of those who would be required. You can see where this is going. At what point does our mental health facility become my fast food dinner. Call it whatever you want, but make enough changes, and it simply is no longer what it is.


This is not going to be blame time with Bob. Commissioners Harley-Davidson, Diana Finnegan, and Jeff kinard were all in favor of allowing the changes and the board move forward despite opposition from chair Ruthie schlava and commissioner Rebecca base. Why I would have been in opposition stems from an argument that was not made in the meeting, so let's discuss that briefly.


As I said, I have a strong appeal to authority. LifeStream is an expert organization in mental health services. So applying consistent philosophy, I should have joined the majority in support of this to not get in the weeds as Dr. Kennard said and let the experts do what they do best. And I would have been all for that. But there have been too many red flags along the way for live stream to have earned that ready to be given trust.


Commissioner Finnegan argued that the reason why life stream wanted the provision about having a psychiatrist on site cut was because of being out of compliance. Should that psychiatrist retire, take another job, or otherwise vacate the position. Okay. Seems reasonable. She also argued that a psychiatrist is required to be on staff at all hours due to state regulation, even if this means the psychiatrist is based in Leesburg and not on site. Okay. Okay. Less reasonable but I see where she's coming from.


It's hard for me to see this as anything but a cost cutting measure though. The most recent form 990, a public information form. Form all non-profits are required to file, shows that live stream pays those listed as psychiatrists on their executive leadership team between 200 and $6,000 and almost 290,000. Now that's their leadership team. But a reasonable question in the meeting would have been. What is the average salary cost for a psychiatrist and is that cost prohibitive to keep one on-site at citrus. Red flag number one.


Red flag number two also stems from that 4990. Of the seven paid members on the executive team, only one was a woman. Now I'm not going to Burn my bra or worse. Joined the ALA over this gender disparity but the pay disparity does raise eyebrows. I just told you what the five psychiatrists make and the one woman who was the CFO at the time, not sure if she still is, made just over 117,000, about 60% of what per male colleagues were making. Making. Bobby! Those are medical professionals, she is at administrative executive, the market values them differently. Yes, it does. And if you have been keeping track then you know there is one executive position of the seven we haven't talked about yet and that is former chief executive John Cherry whose compensation was 271,684. That's someone who is not a medical professional making about 150,000, well over twice as much, as his fellow and dare I play the gender card and say female, executive. Come after me all you want for being progressive on this, but keep in mind we're talking about a non-profit here, not a national one, a statewide one, and I can't in good conscience overlook this. That's red flag number two.


Red flag number three was for me the most concerning. It comes from why I said former CEO John Cherry. In mid March, the commission requested info from live stream that they were contractually obligated to present. The nonprofit balked. Quoting from a March 12th chronicle story, I think it's long overdue. Commissioner, Rebecca Bay said asking Cherry for a comprehensive information that explains the services live stream provides here and the non-profits revenues. Commission chairwoman Ruthie schlabaugh thanks, Cherry and live streams vice president Ricky for their presentations but also wanted a better explanation as to what services live stream provides. Where in citrus county it provides it and how state money is distributed for mental health and how it gets to live stream." It's not clear. It's not transparent. I need to know the numbers." LifeStream promised to live up to its contractually obligated reports and what transpired was months, not weeks, months to get a diluted response. And all of this was promised by CEO John Cherry. The number one rule in business is not that the customer is always right, it's under promise and over deliver. This probably explains why in mid-may of this year, three days before a lifestream board meeting and with the requested report not yet delivered to the commission nor the facility approved yet, Cherry resigned unexpectedly. My guess is they were going to fire him but the board feigned surprise none the less. Even since his resignation, throughout this entire year, live stream has over promised and under delivered, tiptoeing. Ability to stay compliant, much less transparent with the services it provides, and just Tuesday asked for even more leniency. Red flag number three.


Call it what you will. A baker act facility. A mental health facility. A win for citrus county. It might even be all of those things. But that will be determined by the level of service and there was enough pre-existing evidence to overcome a default appeal to authority, and a conservative inclination to not micromanage, but rather to enforce taxpayer, as well as citizen well-being, stipulations. I'm hoping for the four course meal of mental health services provided. After Tuesday, I'm expecting the burger and fries.


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