CAVE People Can Help Keep County in Check



'Tis the season to learn how much the cost of a postage stamp is. The answer (for those like me who are fortunate enough to have a significant other do our Christmas cards and haven’t been to the post office) is $0.58. Fifty-eight cents!


That hurts. Not in the sense of hurting the pocketbook, even the most popular people this time of year can still afford the postage, but it likely hurts because your first reaction is “I remember when stamps cost…”


Nostalgia is a powerful emotion. It can bring joy in memories of times past. It also can cause pain in longing for what was. It can be nice to relive the past, but it can’t come at the expense of reversing the direction toward the future.


I was talking with someone recently who used the pejorative acronym CAVE people to describe a segment of the Citrus politically active population. CAVE stands for Citizens Against Virtually Everything.


My first thought was that of dread, “oh my goodness, I’m a caveperson,” although my guess would be most Concurrent readers would take pride in the label. As I’ve given it more consideration, however, I realized the concept requires nuance and categories. At the heart of the difference lies nostalgia.


The “virtually everything” that people are against can be defined into two categories: things out of our control and things in our control. The hardest part can be differentiating between the two.

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I’ve lived in Citrus almost six years, which is just long enough to start feeling the pain of seeing the small town charm swallowed by growth. One of our favorite after church breakfast spots is Mama’s Kuntry Kafe. The Inverness restaurant had to abruptly vacate a now-demolished plaza and in its place stands a monstrous nearly-completed Culvers.


Chili’s, which was a favorite of mine before moving to Citrus County, is coming just down Main St. and soon its neon chili pepper outline will shine brighter than the familiar red arrow pointing toward Angelotti’s behind Century 21.


This hurts on a visceral level like not being recognized among a group of people you went to high school with or watching a favorite childhood movie with someone you convinced to sit through it only to realize it wasn’t that good. The reality ruins the nostalgia.


Growth is a reality. The question is if it is one we can control or that is out of our control. If you were going to control it, you would want to dis-incentivize people from coming here. One way to do that is through increasing costs.


The Commission voted to raise impact fees earlier this year for people and businesses moving to the area and raised the bed tax in 2017 when a majority of the current members (Kinnard, Carnahan and Kitchen) were on the Board.


Neither of these increases have stemmed the tide of people coming here. Tourism has even had record numbers of people coming to the county during the pandemic although they largely come from other parts of Florida rather than internationally.


Thus, growth is out of our control. Cavepeople like myself must accept this, cope with our nostalgia and help local businesses through our support when the corporations inevitably move in.


What is in our control, however, is the ability to communicate and prioritize. The Commission needs to do a better job of communicating where we stand on the animal shelter project.

Leaving shortfalls to be covered by private funding is no way to govern. This Board has done the best job I’ve seen at taking time to have discussions amongst themselves in the legal forum of regular meetings and the animal shelter deserves revisiting in the next one.


Next, the Commission needs to prioritize better. Funding the Ft. Island Trail bike path was an inexcusable use of $1 million in general fund money when many questions remain about the project’s overall viability and there are several more pressing issues.


Cavepeople worried about these projects can be easily dismissed when we gripe about things out of our control like growth. Some of us admittedly take nostalgia to an unrealistic, irreversible want to return to the way things were which reasonable people know can never be the case.


These same reasonable people who trend toward dismissiveness can also be guilty of not acting in a way that demands enough accountability for what is in our control. We can all do a little better without sacrificing our personal beliefs or looking down on others.


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