The Rundown: November 2019

BOCC 11/19/19

  • The week of November 17 was declared National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week by the same commissioners that have voiced more interest in the use of law enforcement to run folks out of public spaces than provide the needed assistance.
  • Commissioner Allocco paid tribute to the late Rose Rocco, county commissioner from 2006-2010. He praised her community involvement and her ability to “work across the aisle.” She died on November 7, 2019. 
  • During the approval of the agenda, a member of the public criticized the tardiness of the BOCC’s online agenda — resulting in residents having less time to review it and prepare for the meetings. Administrator Rogers responded by announcing that the county plans to release the agenda a week ahead of each meeting starting in January 2020. 
  • Residents spoke on behalf of the Weeki Wachee River and the manatees by endorsing an ordinance requiring propeller covers and speed limitations on the Weeki Wachee river. While Commissioner Dukes opined “It’s really hard to control an animal who thinks their in their own heaven…and we’re out there doing our thing…I don’t think people hit manatees on purpose,” the commission will soon be receiving data and holding discussions on the matter.
  • Valerie Pianta, Economic Development Manager, provided updates on a request made by Commissioner Champion to start a public gun range in Hernando County; however, Hernando County fails to meet most of the requirements for this project. The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is not interested in starting ranges that will compete with existing ranges, like the Hernando Sportsman’s Club. Moreover, it is recommended that 150,000 documented shooters live within 30 minutes of the range. While areas outside of the county can be included, Hernando County only has a total population of about 180,000 people. Pianta also mentioned that a Palm Harbor range that actually does meet  recommendations has been in the works for 15 years, and still is not completed. 
  • As a new public shooting range appears to be unlikely, Commissioner Champion doubled down on the commission’s need to pass a resolution declaring Hernando County a “Second Amendment Sanctuary.” The ambiguity of the phrase led to all the commissioners swearing to defend the right to bear arms– ostensibly under assault — and many admitting that the resolution would have no real power. Garth Collier, County Attorney, referred to the “residue” of the term “sanctuary cities,” and suggested a change in the language. Apparently, the commission is more concerned over the optics of being associated with humanitarianism than using their elected platform to peddle the fear of gun confiscation.
  • Paul Molle’, Real Property Supervisor, and Robert Buckner, the county’s real estate agent, presented more surplus county property for sale. Agenda items like this have become more common at commission meetings as the county tries to reduce its property holdings substantially. While they relish the short term financial gains and removal of power and land from government hands, they don’t concern themselves with the future of our land in Hernando County. Don’t expect them to make a move like Pasco County and buy over 843 acres of land for preservation. In Hernando, it’s always profits over preservation. Wayne Dukes took this moment to break with the rest of the commission and denounce their decision from the last meeting to sell land to Hartland Homes through an unsolicited bid. The wide public criticism appeared to have affected him. He said, “It didn’t feel right,” and he would like us to have a more open process in the future. The rest of the commission and the county attorney shot him down, as they followed statutes. They failed to engage with the idea that something being legal doesn’t make it ethical or wise.
  • The Superintendent of the Hernando County School District, John Stratton, appeared again before the county commission, revisiting the need for our county to increase impact fees to help fund needed improvements for our aging educational infrastructure. Currently, the impact fees are set at just 50% of the recommended level from an outdated 2005 study. The commission, concerned with how an increase would affect builders and voicing the recommendations of the Chamber of Commerce, voted 4-1 to discuss increasing impact fees (to only 50% of an updated 2019 study) at an upcoming interlocal meeting.

The residents of Hernando County are living under a commission that is more concerned with representing their right to purchase, carry, and use weapons than their children’s right to learn, explore, and grow within our schools. The commissioners continue to label  any assistance as a tax that threatens our prosperity. These same men cannot emphasize their NRA memberships enough, and will stop at nothing to prove their loyalty to the Second Amendment. Chairman Holcomb uses his platform to spread fear about gun-stealing Democrats, while only 14 guns have been confiscated under the new red flag laws — passed by a Republican-majority state legislature. Commissioner Champion has led the charge to deem Hernando County a Second Amendment Sanctuary, modeled off of Lake County’s  resolution, which states that the federal government, “cannot compel law enforcement officers of the States to enforce federal laws as it would increase the power of the Federal government far beyond that which the Constitution intended.” Surely, our community cares about the very real financial needs of our children’s schools more than the fear-mongering of these elected gun lobbyists.

Wayne Dukes is the winner!
“Pull your belt in a few notches and move on.” — Commissioner Dukes responding to Hernando County children trying to learn in outdated infrastructure unprepared for the expected growth

You can view this meeting’s materials here.

BOCC 11/05/19

  • Initiated by Commissioner Dukes, a presentation was given by the Archaeological Committee regarding historical land related to Seminole Indian battle sites on the Chocochatti Prairie. The Seminole Wars are a tale of resistance by Native Americans and their escaped African slave allies against the invasion and oppression of American aggressors. The presenter explained that much land of historical value has already been lost — with mining partly to blame — and they are attempting to get any additional land designated as a national landmark. Hernando County currently lacks ordinances to protect historic sites.
  • During citizen comment, Sylvia Alvarez advocated on behalf of a family whose property  burned down, and who has experienced various other life and financial difficulties. Their house was demolished by county staff, resulting in a $10,000 charge and a lien on the property. While several of the commissioners voiced the need to assist this family, Commissioner Champion speculated about the “slippery slope” of excuses that may ensue if the residents of Hernando County  were supported by the commission. Champion went as far to say that the property would be worth more without the property built upon it.
  • The Benge Development was denied their application to rezone part of their golf course from recreational to residential. The rezoning request was primarily made because of the decreasing interest in golf — adding villas would bring in more profits than keeping the golf course as is. The residents in and around the property were clear about their traffic and school congestion concerns when opposing the change, which was ultimately denied by the BOCC 4-1.
  • Despite community opposition, public property designated as park land was unanimously approved for sale to Rep. Blaise Ingoglia’s company, Hartland Homes. The commission was more concerned with media coverage by the Tampa Bay Times. Steve Champion claimed not to know that Hartland Homes was owned by Rep. Ingoglia, and Commissioner Holcomb took issue with the newly hired Robert Buckner being described as “politically influential.” Paul Molle’, real property supervisor, briefly explained how the escheatment process leads to property being declared surplus. Moreover, he noted that only one property was appraised to determine what sort of fair value could be fetched by the county and noted that only one property was used to model the six for sale due to budget cuts.
  • Tobey Phillips, the newly appointed Deputy County Administrator, confirmed that the administration is exploring implementing an affordable housing policy. This was after the commission joked about playing dirty with folks in Southern Hills by using the county’s property in the extremely wealthy neighborhood as locations for affordable housing. Isn’t it humorous that our commissioners view poverty as a weapon to use against their rich constituents? 
  • An interlocal workshop between the BOCC, the Hernando County School District, and Brooksville City council is tentatively scheduled for December 18th.
  • The meeting ended with Commissioner Champion requesting that the county administrator look into Hernando’s loitering policy. In the same meeting in which it was announced that Steve Champion would again serve on the board of Mid Florida Community Services, Inc. — a non-profit that is “dedicated to eliminating the causes of poverty through a comprehensive service delivery approach”— he proposes asking our law enforcement officials to punish those lacking a permanent shelter and those accused of “panhandling.” 

Did your home burn down? The BOCC doesn’t really care. Were you called politically influential after you have (in)directly contributed to the campaigns of sitting commissioners and own/represent an enormous amount of property throughout the county? The BOCC would like a word with you. Are you concerned about the scrapping and selling off of our public lands to those with power?  The BOCC doesn’t know what you are talking about. Are you lacking shelter and just trying to survive in a county whose commission has allocated nothing to providing aid? The BOCC is calling the cops, so you better clear out. These are the symptoms of a community run by a cadre of wealthy, white men who have subscribed to the myth that unlimited economic growth is all that matters.

Commissioner Champion has most absurd remark
“Normally I’m not for more regulation and ordinances, but when it comes to this I think its detrimental to our businesses and way of life.” — Commissioner Champion explaining that the real threat is homelessness and folks without power nor resources

You can view this meeting’s materials here.