This week ahead is significant for our county and for our country. Later today, the Board of County Commissioners will meet to vote on adopting a change in how money for stormwater runoff prevention is collected.
The following Tuesday next week, the Commission will be presented with numbers from county staff and Naturecoast EMS then vote to decide the fate of how emergency services are provided in the county.
In between these two meetings is the 20th anniversary of 9/11 this Saturday. Twenty years has done nothing to dampen the hurt of that day. The reasons for the senseless acts of violence against the innocent are no closer to being understood. The memory of those lost remains never forgotten.
Part of what was found that day, though, has been slowly dissipating or has disappeared outrightly.
This isn’t going to be a column lamenting the fact that we only find unity after tragedy nor is it going to be a longing for a time when it seemed we could set aside our differences in favor of national action. I imagine there will be plenty of those written, and I expect more than a few to skip over some parts of that collective thinking that led to troublesome actions that followed.
It is a time for hard decisions though. Regardless of the choices made locally, the outcome will be met with vocal opposition from those who show up to be heard who represent many thousands who will inevitably feel the same when they hear the results. Unity is an unrealistic expectation when it’s a zero-sum game and there are going to be winners and losers.
For this reason, today’s column won’t call for the national unity felt in the wake of tragedy, but in its place, we can strive for a different concept. We can treat each other with respect.
It's easy to think this piece of advice only applies to those who we don't agree with. Yet in our actions, we fail to show respect for some groups who get much of it with words only.
The main reason for changing the way money for stormwater runoff is collected from a real estate ad valorem tax to a municipal services benefit unit (MSBU) is to keep people from minimizing their contribution through the use of exemptions, primarily the homestead exemption, however this is not the only exemption there is.
Veterans who have received a certain disability classification, either through being wounded in combat or through the injury service takes on the body, will also now experience expense hikes between 500% and 700%.
In 2016, Citrus County became a designated Purple Heart County. Many, though not all, counties in Florida have this honor. Those that do have it need to be aware of how their decisions affect veterans, particularly those with disability classifications. The county has to make that honor mean something.
Another group of people who we must show respect toward with our actions as well as our words are our first responders. This includes the employees of Naturecoast EMS.
Undoubtedly next Tuesday there are going to be harsh things said about the organization, which may be necessary, but the Commission should take great care to be respectful of the employees through a clear explanation of how their decision will help them.
So far, this hasn’t always been the case. When confronted with the wage disparity, some on the Board deflected responsibility by reminding the employees that the county doesn’t pay their salaries. This is true, but the county does have enough influence over the NCEMS budget to make changes if necessary, which will be evident when those same members are quick to take credit if wages go up.
The Firefighters Union wrote in a column yesterday that NCEMS was unavailable for 210 calls for service in the month of August alone, averaging about six per day. This is both unacceptable and not the fault of those who were on the frontlines of making the calls.
Lastly, in the meetings we can all be respectful of one another. Commissioner Ron Kitchen loves to say if you want respect, you have to show respect, but let’s not make our ability to be good to one another contingent - let’s make it innate. Let’s make it part of who we are.
After all, 20 years later, and I’m still at a loss for words at how I feel. The ability to be respectful might be all there is left. Let’s not lose that.