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Sheriff's big win is a win for all of us

Whoa made it to Friday. A Labor Day shortened week, but a long week nonetheless, and I’m happy to be here, also great to have you in. The preliminary budget hearing is over and what a win for all involved, we’ll get to that in about four minutes.

Commissioner Holly Davis ran a fantastic meeting in place of Chair Ruthie Schlabach who is recovering from cancer treatments, I wish her the best, with Commissioner Rebecca Bays also absent due to a family emergency. The Chronicle’s story about the hearing focuses solely on the library discussion that tried to take place in the open to the public portion of the meeting and not on the amazing outcome for public safety that is a huge boon for the taxpayers, for the commission, and of course for the Sheriff himself, but don’t worry, I’ll cover that extensively to make up for the Chronicle’s oversight. What they focused on was Commissioner Holly Davis properly shutting down discussion about funding the American Library Association membership. I back Commissioner Davis in this action. It wasn’t censorship because I also back Chair Ruthie Schlabach’s decision to have that discussion at the next meeting on Tuesday, so knowing this, Commissioner Davis simply pushed the discussion until then when it would be more appropriate to have it. Good work to both Commissioner Davis and Chair Schlabach for balancing public input without stymying government meetings.

The Just Wright Citrus piece this morning is one you can skip, basically word salad about a party he’s having to celebrate his 65th birthday, and while I wish him a happy birthday and welcome him back to the conversation after a day off for health reasons, there’s not a lot of there there in his piece today. I do want to take just a moment to discuss some headscratching parts of the Chronicle editorial today though.

If you listened to every episode this week, you’ll know I pointed out that the Chronicle editorial about the Sheriff’s budget ask seemed to be arguing against itself, being critical of the Sheriff for keeping the county too safe with the resources he already has. And…they’re doing it again. It takes the side of saying the county should fund the ALA membership, and the points it makes to prove this seems counter-intuitive to the argument. Quoting from the piece although I’m going to editorialize about grammar halfway through the quote, “the personal beliefs or practices of the president of the ALA, which for some reason is in parentheses, are a private matter.” But…it’s not a private matter. The president wanted to make her personal beliefs and practices public. That’s why she posted it publicly, to a public social media site, including both her beliefs and her public new role in the same statement. So, I would agree with the Chronicle if it had been kept private, but it’s not the ALA opposition publicizing her beliefs, it’s the president herself.

And then these two sentences, quote, “the libraries must remain independent of individual beliefs to protect all library users’ rights. No one philosophy or political belief should control what libraries offer to their patrons.” Couldn’t agree more. Which is why membership should be canceled, because the first thing an individual did when taking leadership was make it about her philosophy and political beliefs. They’re skipping that part, and only blaming those who are responding, which is weird.

If someone approaches you in a dark alley and takes out a knife, you’re now in a knife fight because of their actions. You can’t conveniently overlook that and blame the victim for responding, and the response the commission is doing is not overwhelming self defense against the attacker, it’s simply walking away from the fight all together. Canceling membership, forever? No, they can restart it whenever. But this editorial today is a mess, both grammatically with the ALA being put into parentheses not once but on every mention after the first and it was argumentatively nonsensical. I just don’t get it. But what I do get is what happened in the budget hearing, though it was a complicated affair.

Let’s start by making this simple, and then adding the layers of complexity on top.

In persuasion rhetoric, there are two types of tactics people, usually salesman, almost always employ. They are colloquially referred to as foot in the door and kick down the door. Foot in the door is to warm people up to the idea of saying yes. You start small to work yourself into the big ask. Can I have just a minute of your time? You say yes. Great, here’s why in just one more minute, you can extend your car’s warranty. Here’s another: for just 19 cents a day, you can feed a child in need. Thanks for agreeing to 19 cents a day, that’s a three year contract and you’re now handed a bill for $225 after thinking you were paying about 19 cents. That’s foot in the door. Start with a yes in hoping it leads to another.

Kick down the door is the opposite approach. You ask for something so outlandish that it will almost certainly be a no, then you ask for what you actually want in hopes that the answer will be yes. The psychology behind this is simple, nobody likes to tell someone no twice. There’s also a principle of advertising called anchoring. This is fixing a point of reference for value against something to judge something else. A $100 bottle of wine doesn’t look that expensive when initially offered a $1,000 bottle of wine. So too does a secondary ask not feel as intrusive as an absurd initial ask. You kick in the door with the aggressive first offer and hope it doesn’t come back to close that much harder in your face.

There’s no question that the Sheriff employed this tactic. For months, the topic of discussion has been can you believe the amount the Sheriff is asking for? Commissioners in every meeting its come up have said, we’re going to have to take a look at this or no way we’re funding it at those levels. No, no, no. And yet, by the end of the meeting, it was a yes. Sheriff got everything. Because he didn’t kick down the door with the county, he did with the federal government.

Remember the COPS grant I’ve talked about earlier this week? Just yesterday I explained that the county budgets for this grant out of our healthy and robust reserves because it will be refunded by the federal government if it is approved, which it has been applied for but not awarded. The grant ask was 44 new positions, 44!

But what this did was set up staff to allocate what would be a substantial budget line item from the general fund, but what is rather a small line item when compared to the reserves, to this grant. And yesterday, they found the compromise. Take some of the money allocated to potentially fund 44 deputies from the reserves, use it to offset the cost of the ask from the Sheriff for his operations, in so doing, the county doesn’t have to raise the millage rage to cover the cost of CCSO’s ask, they did vote to raise it for other reasons so don’t think it’s not going up at all, but that ask that the Sheriff made that was once hailed as ridiculous and costly is now not impacting your tax bill.

Covered by our healthy reserves. Wait, you might be thinking, I think I’m following, but something has to give, right? What changed? The commission impressed upon the Sheriff that they will tow a hardline and not fund all of the 44 deputies, or any deputies that exceed the cost of the balance that they are taking out of the reserves now.

But psst. Here’s the secret. The COPS grant was never going to award 44 deputies in the first place. The Sheriff asked for something he knew he wasn’t going to get, so when the compromise was struck, he got everything he wanted. Kick down the door persuasion rhetoric. We shouldn’t be surprised since if it’s one thing that has been made abundantly clear in the seven years of the Prendergast administration at CCSO, it’s that they’re really good at kicking down drug offenders doors.

The real beauty of this all is that everyone wins. This wasn’t a zero sum negotiation where Sheriff wins and commission loses, no, not at all, the commission did great and won as well, so did the taxpayers and somewhere in DC, some grant administrator is going to as well. Let’s reveal the checklist. Sheriff’s ask fully funded, check win. Commission gets to shave some off the millage rate since funding the ask will come from reserves and not a tax increase plus they get to fully fund public safety check, win. Taxpayers don’t get the increase passed on to us and get the higher level of service, check win. And some DC desk jockey gets to slash through a 44 deputy ask and look like they taking a hardline stance against excessive spending, check, win.

The cliche I wanted to stay away from the most in describing this was that Sheriff was playing chess while the rest of us were playing checkers. I hate that saying. But my favorite episode of the West Wing involves games of chess, and I want to play a clip from that now because I think it describes this situation so perfectly. The fictional president is sending warships to the Taiwan Strait to respond to China that is acting provocatively because the US was going to sell Taiwan Egis class destroyers. The president is playing chess with one of his aides and the aide is going to talk through the situation, the full thing is a minute, I’ll pause it after about 20 seconds and relate it to CCSO. -4:13 “is that the same thing?”

They’re on their way, is that the same thing? But, but, the COPS grant could award 44 deputies, no, 44 deputies are applied for, not awarded, is that the same thing? Remember, that set up the budget line item from the reserves. And here’s the rest of the clip. The issue gets resolved and the aide is going to guess how it ended. (CLIP)

The aide realizes Taiwan was asking for something that was never going to happen in the first place, just like CCSO asked the federal government for something they knew was never going to happen, but set up a compromise to get everything fully funded temporarily. And everyone wakes up in the morning and saves a little face.

Except you might be thinking, okay so a lot of people won, who lost? Well temporarily, the Sheriff did. He didn’t save face. For months, he was a punching bag for the commission and the subject of sound off criticism for his handling of the budget. But you know what matters to this Sheriff more than anything? More than PR or reputation? Results.

Here’s the final part of that clip talking about how to pull something like this off. 5 seconds here we go. (CLIP)

Did that clip send chills down your spine? Is that what a leader should sound like?

Sheriff got everything he wanted. Those are my words, giving him the credit. I talked to him last night after all this wrapped up, you know how he worded it? The guys will be happy. They’ve been working hard, and they’ve earned it. He’s had 4-5 hours of sleep a night for the last two weeks, he’s been running emergency response in Citrus and helping in Dixie County, he pulls off a huge budgetary win, and just hours after, what’s his reaction? He’s not taking a victory lap, he’s thinking about the team. He’s thinking about the team.

Congratulations to the commission, to the staff on a job well done, and congratulations to the Sheriff on this outcome. It’s a win for all of us.


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