Letter to the Editor: Not the People’s Champion

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As many residents of Hernando County received their TRIM notices last week, District 5 Commissioner Steve Champion did what he does best: made it all about Steve Champion, all on Facebook. Over several posts, Mr. Champion shared images of his recently-increased taxes, declaring that he would never vote to raise taxes in Hernando County.

The few Hernando residents with sufficient time to follow County Commission business know that this tax hike was precipitated by the fiscal irresponsibility of the Board of County Commissioners. Mr. Champion has repeatedly made it clear that he wants the Board to offset their budgetary mismanagement by cutting and freezing county services. It is worth noting that District 5 encompasses many of Hernando County’s poorest, most rural, and most vulnerable communities, whose residents rely on county services in their daily lives.

But about those photos. Though it surely was not his intent, they illustrate a stark disparity between Mr. Champion and his constituents. He laments his aggregate tax obligation of $15,289.41, while deeming his $940,882 property valuation, on which those taxes are based, unremarkable. Indeed, state financial disclosure forms show that his net worth of nearly $1.1 million is the highest of any commissioner.

According to the Census Bureau data, the median home value in Hernando County is $121,000, and according to the state’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research, the per capita personal income is only $36,000 annually. The United Way’s ALICE report for 2019, meanwhile, found that anywhere from half (North Brooksville) to two-thirds (Brooksville) of residents in District 5 communities were living in de facto poverty. If Mr. Champion is aware of any of this, he seems unperturbed. Instead he uses his platform to wallow in pity that his millionaire self has to pay his fair share to fix a mistake which is partly of his own making.

Hernando County Progressive Caucus