Don't Manatee My Citrus



News media consistently grapples with one central question: does your content drive ratings or are your letting ratings drive your content? The latter would allow an entertainment element to enter how editors assign their reporters to cover the news which would undermine the credibility of the information gathered.


Here at the Concurrent, I am seeing readership rise steadily with these columns - something I am thankful for but not seeking. These written portions are meant to be thought-provoking through their ability to inform and entertain an audience without a focus on doing either particularly well.


The podcasts, one of which has already been recorded and uploaded to the website, will have an emphasis on entertaining while video broadcasts will be for the purposes of informing. When it comes to the podcasts, one of the single most important elements of entertainment will be topic selection.


The same goes, in part, for these columns. As I sat down to write this mornings piece for Thursday, I considered several topics. The Tourism Development Council needs to offset its minimal losses in bed tax revenue in the short-term with some key changes in the Visitors and Convention Bureau approach to advertising to keep support behind the Ft. Island Trail bike path.


There was an issue of unequally weighted headlines in the Chronicle when covering a former Citrus County Sheriff’s Office detective’s arrest and a former Citrus County School System principal’s resignation that deserves attention.


Finally, I considered responding to the editorial in which the Chronicle takes a position I agree with about CCSO retaining emergency management, but that failed to mention that Sheriff Prendergast is eliminating a co-mingling of funds - a mess of an accounting practice he inherited from the previous administration.


I am instead going to take a different approach, however, one that Chronicle publisher Gerry Mulligan takes in his Sunday commentary often and that is always appreciated by many including me. I am going to use this as a reflection to remind myself why I am thankful to live in Citrus County.


I am writing this from my parents’ house who live in Lakewood Ranch, a development seeing Villages-type expansion in Manatee County.


Citrus and Manatee County switch names once a year because we, of course, are known for our beloved animal that is their namesake and down here, which is the home of Tropicana, the citrus industry is still strong. An annual name swap, however, I hope is the closest we get to emulating Manatee County and lately their Board of County Commission has served as a reminder of how thankful we are to have the BOCC we do in Citrus.


Our BOCC is a lightning rod for criticism, and I’m guilty of striking as much as anyone. While they can act against how we might think our leaders should at times, ultimately we are blessed to have the group we do and Manatee County is a good comparison of what it looks like when things go wrong.


The chairwoman of their commission, who is under fire from the public, survived a 4-3 vote from her colleagues to remove her from her chairmanship on Tuesday after she created a pop-up vaccine site for the two wealthiest zip codes in her district. Text messages brought to light Tuesday revealed she communicated with a Lakewood Ranch developer agreeing getting vaccines to wealthier people quicker would help Governor Ron Desantis’ reelection chances in 2022.


Manatee recently fired their county administrator after 30 years. In the lead up to this vote, an unregistered dark money committee apparently funded by a sitting county commissioner paid for a fake poll done by a firm known as “the worst pollster in the nation” to produce numbers saying the administrator was doing a bad job. This committee, backed by the commissioner, included the false data in an unsolicited email to voters with a template letter to send to fellow commissioners to tell them to vote for the administrators removal.


The list of Manatee County craziness doesn’t end there even though this column will. Our county government has a reputation of being ineffective; numbers say otherwise. Our BOCC can be underhanded in some of their tactics, but they are by and large deliberate in the explanations of their actions. Our individual commissioners are not perfect in what they say or how they act, but we have five individuals whose intent is to make the county a better place for all.