My wife Rachel and I were watching the Apple TV original series The Morning Show on Friday night when we each came to separate but equally true conclusions about the program.
“Is it just a string of scenes where people yell at each other?” she asked.
“I think what it’s missing is any character to root for,” I responded. “There’s not a single likeable one.”
An emerging parallel between our comments about the show and how most people view the government may start to materialize but that comparison is a lazy one.
At the local level at least, most discussions are usually exceedingly civil. The Board has a wide range of personalities that means at least one commissioner typically becomes easy for someone to root for even if the opinion of the Commission at-large remains low.
This phenomenon is demonstrated at the national level as the House of Representatives routinely has around an 10 percent approval rating as a governing body but individual representatives enjoy a 95 percent reelection rate. “It’s the other representatives who are the problem; not the one who represents me” is a typical mindset.
Personally I don’t root for any commissioner in particular but rather for the Board as a whole to succeed. One aspect of governing that can quickly turn me against an individual Commissioner, however, is when that official tries to create a victimhood narrative.
Commissioner Scott Carnahan did this when constituents reacted with outrage to the county taking back Fire Services in 2017. I was making podcasts called Brace for Impact at that time, and mentioned the victimhood approach in an episode.
This episode provoked a call from Commissioner Carnahan where we did what the characters in The Morning Show do: yelled at each other with no real resolution. That reconciliation would come a year later when I ran his 2018 campaign.
I got a different call on Friday from Commissioner Holly Davis. We talked about the strategic planning meetings that were scheduled for yesterday and next weekend needing to be postponed due to the trouble with scheduling and staffing with consultants contracted through the University of Central Florida.
An important difference between the 2017 Fire Services situation and the strategic planning session situation needs to be established. The first was an outcome of consequence while the latter is a product of circumstance.
The Fire Services vote was a voluntary one that the Commission knew would be controversial and thus needed to understand the consequence that would come with that. Playing the victim during a time of self-inflicted consequence isn’t leadership, although to Commissioner Carnahan’s credit, the vote that he engineered as chairman appears to have ended up being the right move.
One could argue the decades-longer administrative experience and more abundance of resources available to Sheriff Mike Prendergast could have kept fire costs in-line enough to not require a September 2019 fee raise, but there’s no doubt that Chief Craig Stevens has excelled at creating an intensely efficient culture of his standalone department.
The strategic planning session cancellations were not a self-inflicted consequence but rather the product of external circumstance. Of all the times to play into a victimhood narrative, this would be it. But that’s not what happened.
Instead of blaming others, Commissioner Davis clearly explained to people who could communicate her message further to the public what had happened that got us to where we are and what we are doing about taking the next step forward in the future. This next step is a rescheduled event for January 2022 with a bigger push on marketing the dates.
This is nearly perfect execution of how to handle the situation. The only criticism comes from needing to manage turnout expectations. The Chronicle reported Ms. Davis said “only 100 people” had signed up for the two meetings, not an overwhelming amount, but certainly not one that needs to be qualified with the word only before it.
The Fire Services podcast got roughly 1,000 plays, which in hindsight was a healthy amount, yet at the time I was discouraged by what I perceived to be a small audience. All audiences start somewhere and the future of government, while it interests me and anyone likely reading this, is not a terribly interesting topic to most people who would rather be left alone.
Real life doesn’t have to be an endless cycle of argument that I am guilty of watching as entertainment. We have plenty of likeable personalities to root for here in Citrus.