Understanding Begins with a Conversation



There are important parts of our local government affairs from a Crystal River City Council and Citrus County School Board meeting last week to the Inverness City Council meeting on Tuesday that the Concurrent hasn’t covered yet.


Also Hernando County State Representative Blaise Ingoglia officially filed for the state senate seat currently held by Senate President Wilton Simpson, who didn’t deny claims he is going to run for commissioner of agriculture (a seat vacated by current Ag Commish Nikki Fried who has already filed for governor) when Simpson spoke to the local Citrus Republican Executive Committee earlier this week.


Commissioner Holly Davis has asked the commission to revisit the issue of funding more marine deputies for CCSO, something that failed to receive a motion on but that was discussed as a necessity for future budgets at a special meeting last week. The comments breathe new life into an issue that appeared to be, you knew it was coming, dead in the water.


Some insight to next year’s budget also became available that includes a 3.7% rollback of the millage rate to keep property taxes the same despite home value increases, effectively resulting in a tax cut for residents.

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The topic today, though, is going to be more philosophical than it is political. I have two objectives for this column. The first is to convey my genuine gratitude to you as a reader. The second is to tell you about my personal shortcomings this week in hopes that you might see similar behaviors in others and learn to understand their position rather than be turned off by it.


Let’s start with the first objective. Thank you for reading. How’d I do?


Joking aside, I’m truly speechless when I talk to people and they tell me they’ve been reading.


I had run-ins with three elected officials this week, two of whom said they’ve been reading and one who has told me in the past he does. It’s this third interaction that became a learning experience.

The two officials on Tuesday were with Property Appraiser Cregg Dalton and School Board Member Thomas Kennedy. At the risk of of betraying their confidence by discussing otherwise private interactions with public officials, I’ll briefly describe how this went since I represented a candidate who ran opposed to Dalton in the primaries and long-time readers will know the Concurrent has mentioned Kennedy in a string of examples of how officials frame arguments in unproductive ways. Thus, these two gentlemen have every reason to be cold or at least unsociable.


The exact opposite was true. Cregg sent a follow up text later in the day to reiterate that it was good to see me with all the good-hearted nature that he included in a text to me on his victorious election night after what had been a primary where our side had thrown some jabs his way.


Thomas laughed at the comparison I had drawn between him and the suave fictional advertising executive Don Draper saying he was a fan of the show Mad Men so he was flattered but unsure if he should be encouraged by the use in rhetorical techniques of persuasion.


The third interaction was with Commissioner Jeff Kinnard on Monday. As he entered the meeting where Sen. Simpson would be speaking, he greeted me with the same warm, “how’s Bobby doing tonight?” that has been a line I’ve come to enjoy hearing over the last five years.


I muttered a soft, “good, Commissioner” and was off to the back of the room justifying it to myself that it was to greet others to hide from the truth of avoiding any further interaction. The last thing I’ve written advocated giving the BOCC the benefit of understanding, but there was still an uneasiness from my end for an underlying implication in my initial Facebook post of potential impropriety.


The failure at the national level which sometimes seeps into our local politics is the unwillingness or outright inability to talk to people we disagree with. It becomes easier to hate the stranger by vilifying them from afar rather than engaging with them to seek understanding through conversation.


I can be critical of certain non-governmental organizations for a lack of professionalism while falling short of my own standards. The country can do a little better at learning to talk to one another, but at the end of the day, it starts with the individual - a lesson I learned that is easier preached than practiced.