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Podcast Transcript: Role of Government

Happy Thanksgiving week to you, you have a ton of choices from traveling to spending time with family to avoiding work before the holiday and you are choosing these 12 minutes to spend with me, and for that I am eternally grateful. Also thankful to the chamber as well as the Chronicle the prior for the 40 under 40 award I received on Friday the ladder for publicizing it on Sunday, If you didn't get a chance to see the names I encourage you to go to the Chamber website and look them up or try to find a Sunday Chronicle because the bench that we have here in Citrus is remarkable and this list only scratches the surface of all the talent that is here.


There is a county commission today about 1 hour from now, it is a big one. It is, of course, interim county administrator Maryselle Rodriguez's first and only as a county administrator. Haha, okay there's some other stuff happening too. The two new commissioners Rebecca Bayes and Diana Finegan will be sworn in at the beginning of the meeting and then a vote will take place to decide the board's leadership. First vice chair commissioner Ruthie Schlabach is the expected chairwoman followed by Commissioner Holly-Davis who will move from second vice chair to first vice chair and then my guess is that commissioner Rebecca Bayes will be nominated second vice chair because she was passed over for chairwoman when she was on the board previously. Commissioner Jeff Kinnard won't get the nomination because there's no guarantee that he will still be on the board after 2024 although since he was unopposed in 2020 I would guess that his chances are pretty good, and new commissioner Diana Finnegan is certainly capable of being a chairwoman but will likely have to backbench it for a couple of years which is no insult to her, and likely an asset to allow her to learn the ropes a bit.


I got some good stuff for you today though I will be brief as I know many of you are probably already looking ahead to the holiday but I have some good reactions to the Chronicle in about six minutes as well. Thank you so much for tuning in here and let's get right into it.


What is the role of government? I'm seriously asking, take a moment and think to yourself what do you believe the role of government should be. Did you say defense of its citizens? That's a common one and while it's easier to recognize that as the armed forces at the national level something like 40% of the general fund, I don't have the exact statistic in front of me but I think that was right, here in Citrus County goes to public safety. But what else? What else is the role of government?

Infrastructure may have come second on your list. That would be entirely reasonable. Here's a way of shifting perspective though. Instead of thinking of all the things that government should be why don't we instead think of it as all the things that private businesses or individuals shouldn't.


When we think about it this way, a funny thing happens. Our list reverses. Stay with me a second, a staunch Republican believes in and supports both a well-trained, well-funded law enforcement agency as well as an individual's right to defend oneself in their home. Therefore as important as defense of the citizenry is as a role of government, it is in reality also a responsibility of the individual. Now what if I told that same person that the county tells them they have to go pave their own road. It doesn't even make sense. Of course that's not something the individual is going to do, that is strictly the responsibility of government.


I'm talking of course about Inverness villages 4. This is a subdivision of Inverness acres which in its totality sprawls about 1,400 to 1,700 parcels in the city of Inverness and I think about three times that outside the city of Inverness and the county, those numbers might be a little off, but the subsection that has been in headlines recently is located in between Independence and 41 on the north side so if you're on Independence there several new construction homes off to the right, but the more you get back there if you were to turn down one of the side streets toward Florida Ave, 41, then you would quickly run out of pavement.


There's an important distinction to make here right off the bat. These are not private roads. If you live on a private road then the responsibility is fully yours and you know that going in, but that is not what this is. These were plated but never paved roads and the county can only maintain roads, not initially pave them once developed.


But the conditions are dangerous. I hate to use that word, too often we say something is dangerous when it is only inconvenient or unsettling, but the hazardous conditions these paths create are outright dangerous. The citizens have brought forth a solution to have a neighborhood municipal services benefit unit or MSBU levied on them so that they can raise the money to pay for the roads without the cost affecting other taxpayers in the county but there's a catch. The hurdle that they've come across is a $450,000 engineering study that needs to be done before the roads can be paved that the citizens have asked for the county to front but that the board, particularly the two outgoing members of the board, were unwilling to do so in the last meeting.


I want to be clear about something. The residents of this area are not asking for $450,000 free of charge. This amount would be added to the MSBU with interest and paid back over time. The county is merely putting up the money up front.


Now you might be thinking, we're back in the territory of what private business can do that government shouldn't. Giving money and charging interest on it sounds an awful lot like what a bank does. Why should the government do what private business can as well?


That argument is legitimate, though when it comes to both protecting the citizens and providing infrastructure which are jobs number one and two of government then I do think it's right that the county plays that role in this instance because the county can spread out the loan over a longer period of time, let's say 20 years instead of 10 years, and potentially offer more favorable interest rates to be less of a burden on its citizens. All of this, remember, is in service of doing the two jobs that government is supposed to do.


Outgoing chairman run kitchen shut down this discussion initially blaming those who bought houses in the neighborhood for not doing their due diligence prior to purchasing. He feared a nanny state and that this would set a precedent for government helping certain neighborhoods. His viewpoint is understandable after the disaster that was the median project in oak village in sugar Mill Woods that backfired when government, and specifically Commissioner kitchen, got involved to help.


But this one is such a no-brainer. Not only will the government make money on the interest of the loan, but paved roads in the neighborhood will spur future development, raise the property value on the existing development, and the county will get to collect even more in taxes than what it has the potential to do now. It's not a bailout, it's an investment. And if that argument isn't strong enough, I'll remind you one more time, it's the government's job to protect people and provide infrastructure. Enough with the catastrophic failure to act brought on by the outgoing members of the board, the new members of the board should join with commissioner Holly Davis who represents the district and has been vocally in support of this plan and get this done not just for those who live there but for the good of the county.



Getting to topic 2 but first,

We just crossed 300 downloads of our mobile app. This may not sound like a lot but getting people to search for a platform then add it to their phone requires major involvement and 300 people have happily done so. Thank you to you if you are one of them, maybe you’re listening on the app right now. If you haven’t, please take a moment and type in Citrus County Concurrent in your phone’s app store to join the over 300 others in staying in the know on the go.


The full array of the Chronicle commentary writers was on display this Sunday. Publisher Trina Murphy, executive editor Jeff Bryan, weekly columnist Cortney Stewart all had pieces and they were heartwarming, relationship building Thanksgiving pieces as they should be. Not much to comment on there, goodreads, well done Chronicle writers.

The Sunday editorial, however, caught my eye. The editorial chastised the Board of County Commissioners and specifically commissioner Jeff Kinnard saying that they should work better with the Southwest Florida management district, colloquially known as Swift mud, to resolve ownership dispute over the chassahowitzka boat rep. My initial reaction to this was surprise that the Chronicle would side with an organization that's interest is clearly in its own perpetuity and not in the counties best interest like what the commission represents. In case you haven't been following it, swift mud district rep Brian Armstrong sent a strongly worded letter to the Board of County commission asking for additional money in operating the chassahowitzka boat ramp and surrounding park to which at the last meeting Dr Kinnard said was inappropriate to the point of asking the board to direct staff to consider joining the water district to the north of us and leaving Swift mud. Currently the county pays about $2 million dollars a year for Swift mud services.

What strikes me as strange about this situation comes from lessons I've learned from my parents, both of whom are competitive poker players. If you don't understand the hand that is dealt, that's okay, just read the player. Dr Kinnard is not the shoot from the hip type of intuitively reactive commissioner who is going to go to the nuclear option at the first sleight. In fact he's the opposite. He's a coalition builder who is often the voice of reason when others fall into situations that they think need to be all one way or another.


I don't need to name them here but there are certain commercials who you would be more skeptical of the plan to annex the county from Swift mud over this dispute had they proposed it, but that's simply not the case here.


While on the topic credibility, this is why I am so critical of past editorials with their casual relationship with the truth. This piece states that the county can't just decide to leave the jurisdiction of Swift mud, even going as far as to say " That's not how that works " And I want to believe that's true. I have a lot of confidence in newspapers having got my start in print journalism. But it also sounds like lines in past editorials that are thrown in to boost the writers argument but that don't have any basis in reality. You might be thinking that if you want to get that nuanced in fact versus fiction then I should do the research myself. But that's exactly what the role of the newspaper is to be, job number one is to create a better informed public, not a more skeptical one.


And look, I have typos all over the place although I'm a one-man show and not a staff of 120 but the typo in the argument that doesn't even identify swift mud by the Right acronym to begin the piece doesn't help with the credibility question. I'm not ready to write off commissioner kennards idea, though I am open to why the Chronicle would want to side with an independent regional agency rather than the county but I need something more than the claim that's not how this works which may or even may not be true.


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