Categorize Citrus as a Place that Cares



Categorizations help us make sense of the world. Some people or organizations can cross-categorize, or be in several different groups, but a definition is needed to make sense and build trust.


Tom Brady is a NFL quarterback. He is a spokesman for certain companies, he is building his own TB12 brand and he is branching off into media with a documentary series, but these additional pursuits appear to enhance the fact that he is fully committed to football.


He is a spokesperson because he is a quarterback. His brand is built on his football reputation of longevity and his documentary was about football’s role in his life.


This is in contrast to Aaron Rodgers who is also a NFL quarterback but who desperately appears to be trying to not let that define him. He would rather be seen as an intellectual who also plays football.


He guest hosts Jeopardy. He takes trips to remote parts of distant islands and posts videos giving philosophical commentary about life without a single mention of football.


Over the last decade, both have been polarizing figures of the sport. Brady has developed a deeper rapport with his audience, though, while Rodgers remains cold and distant toward fans both in Green Bay and of the sport nationwide. He’s aloof. He’s uncategorizable.


The local government of Citrus County is uncategorized right now as well. This is as problematic of a situation as it is an opportunity to make a difference in the future. If you were to define the brand of Citrus County local government, what would you say? Responsive to citizens? Concerned about environmental conservation or maybe anti-business?


If you think that brand doesn’t matter, look at the cities rather than the county. Any public employee of Inverness will happily tell you what a difference just the slogan of Small Town Done Right made with their media exposure and most residents will likely agree the words match the feeling of the city. Mayor Joe Meek in Crystal River has worked vigorously since taking office in late 2018 to revitalize the downtown and the Gem of the Naturecoast now feels like a city on the verge of endless possibilities.


Citrus County by contrast is an area that has a high quality of life for a low cost of living. This brand is already in question with many fees that have been levied over the last few years, and will be hotly contested in the near future as the Commission meets on Nov. 9 to discuss advocating for a sales tax raise that will almost certainly be on the ballot in 2022.

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The role of government at any level is indisputably to protect its citizens. Enlightenment thinkers like John Locke who heavily influenced the Founding Fathers felt an exchange for some liberties in return for a civil society was a rational behavior.


Political party affiliation can almost exclusively be rooted in the argument over the extent to which the government should be fulfilling this role. Is a robust military enough and let private business or individual self-sufficiency provide the rest? Are social safety nets required for those who cannot help themselves?


Regardless of how you answer this, the fact remains that Citrus County has an opportunity right now to make a statement. The tragic flooding we’re seeing didn’t meet the thresholds provided by the state or federal government for assistance from either. But people need help.


The United Way had only given out $192,278.96 of $450,000 CARES Act funds as of August 16. The three categories this money went to were utility assistance, mortgage assistance and rental assistance. The Commission should either direct the county attorney to help the United Way find a legal means of using this to support flood victims, not just those affected by Covid, with the remaining funds.


The Commission most likely has to meet again soon to continue the declaration of emergency. Another option might be to ask the United Way to give back the remaining funds and use the quarter of a million dollars to set up a Citrus flood relief fund. The restrictions on how these funds can be spent once in the county may prevent this idea from working so the United Way spearheading the effort might be the only viable option.


It’s unacceptable to say there’s nothing more we can do. Low interest loans aren’t nearly enough. Let’s categorize Citrus as a place that cares. Let’s figure out a way to get people help now.


A 750 word column about Citrus County published every Thursday and Sunday