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Library Display Policy Change Started as a Shortcut, Ended in Inefficiency

Much of the Concurrent has shifted the focus to establishing the outlet as an aggregator of the Citrus conversation, but stops short of being a true news aggregator. Not all of the media we collect is news. Much of it is objectively classified as opinion. Some of it is subjectively utter nonsense.

Having what some would consider to be a bad opinion, though, even one that borders on hostile doesn’t discount the need to cover it as part of the conversation. Our new approach is to diffuse the tough stuff with humor. These columns, however, are for those who can look beyond the laugh. The goal here is to review the conversation but put it in a thought-provoking context you won’t find anywhere else.

This is how that works. For example, Mike Wright pointed out in his analysis that Chairman Ron Kitchen dismissed members from the nonprofit the Friends of the Citrus County Library System (FOCCLS) as he felt their support was illegitimately representative of the people because of their affiliation with the library-friendly FOCCLS.

Chairman Kitchen’s claim, as commenters on Mr. Wright’s post were quick to point out but that the Just Wright commentary didn’t include, is bogus particularly because Mr. Kitchen overlooked that many people in support of removing the displays who he regarded as legitimate representatives of our residents came from out of county to speak.

This blatant inconsistency in logic is not hard to explain. It’s confirmation bias, something that the Concurrent has written about extensively in the past, so it won’t be explored in-depth now. However in a brief review, there are three aspects of confirmation bias to keep in mind.

It exists without correlation to level of education, innate IQ or amount of exposure to competing ideas. In fact, there’s even evidence to suggest advanced education and increased exposure to opposing points of view can increase the intensity of someone’s biases rather than counter-balance them.

Chairman Kitchen, a smart man, demonstrated this through hearing hours of debate from both sides only to have the position he held prior to the meeting entrenched even further going into the discussion.

This isn’t a bad thing but rather an inevitable one. Confirmation bias is in everyone, albeit in varying degrees, but there’s a threshold of disconfirmation that leaves decisions free of ideological dogmatism when decisions are made in groups.

Mike Wright established one level of thinking by calling out the absurdity of Chairman Kitchen’s argument that people from the county should have their voice discounted because of their chosen community involvement, the Facebook commenters took it to another level by pointing out the hypocrisy of counting those from out of county as representatives of the voice of the people but let’s take it one step even further.

The Just Wright Citrus entry was titled, “kinnard leads the way on our behalf” [sic] but leads is a strong verb that misses the bigger picture. Dr. Kinnard has a lot of strengths, but true leadership would have been fighting for the chairmanship when Commissioner Holly Davis floated the idea in November.

Several times in the meeting Dr. Kinnard mused, “I don’t even know how we let it get to this point.” That’s not a secret. The chairman wanted it on the agenda. Any commissioner can suggest agenda items, though, so would it really make a difference?

Absolutely. As chairman, Dr. Kinnard would have been able to enforce the way it should have worked. Instead of allowing the people who brought it before the Board of County Commissioners to have an action item, he could have directed them to take it to the Library Advisory Board in an official (rather than combative) capacity who would then either reject the issue or pass it up to a full library advisory council that includes all five commissioners and representatives from the two cities.

If the group that presented the idea disliked the fact that the advisory board disregarded them then they could try to join the board, something that already happened without success. If the group doesn’t like the members that are being chosen for the Library Advisory Board, they can find candidates for commission who will appoint the members they like. This is what the process would look like if it had been done correctly.

Instead, Chairman Kitchen allowed a shortcut to appease people who reinforced beliefs he already held and the commission had four extra hours of meeting time because of it. Government can and should be more efficient.


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