The Rundown: December 2019

BOCC 12/17/19

  • Chairman Holcomb began his last meeting as Chairman with a bizarre history of Christmas, using that as an entrypoint to help propagate American Exceptionalism via “divine acts.” 
  • Commissioner Champion offered back-to-back shoutouts for the multibillion dollar transnational corporation, Cemex, for donating miniscule amounts of money to county projects. Let’s see if he can go three for three when the next year’s meetings commence.
  • Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative, Inc. returned $21 million to members this year, and manager David Gonzalez presented the 2019 capital credits refund to the commission. 
  • The American Red Cross of Mid-Florida via Executive Director Tina Sweeten gave an overview of the services they provide throughout the year, including home fire assistance. They receive no federal funding and help all regardless of income or insurance. They are seeking partnerships with county fire rescue and schools.
  • Several members of the Hernando County School Board spoke out in favor of increasing impact fees to help support our children. Kay Hatch, District 1 board member, requested that the BOCC approve the entire amount of needed impact fees as identified by a Tindale Oliver study. Linda Prescott, the board member from district 2, pointed out that the HCSB has examined multiple ways to save money, including: 4-day weeks, state funding, and a district police force but they are inadvisable or fall short of the needed amount. Ultimately, the BOCC approved an increase in impact fees at 50% of the needed amount, due to approval from by Hernando Chamber of Commerce and the Builders Association. Commissioner Champion claimed that “this is not enough,” and that the school board would return for more funding in a year. Champion went on to lecture the audience about the belt-tightening he expected from the BOCC and the two conservative school board members (a non-partisan position). The fees go into effect in June 2020.
  • The BOCC approved the renewal of the application of the master mining plan for Florida Rock Industries, Inc. The original application was established over 50 years ago, establishing one of the five mining operations we have in the county. 
  • The BOCC approved exploring the construction of a new government center in the Brooksville Airport — a location not centered around geography or population density, but at the heart of the region’s business interests.
  • Administrator Rogers proposed #LiftupHernando, a program allowing employees 8 hours of paid time that they could use to volunteer within county schools and 501(c)(3) companies. The goal of the program would be to improve employee morale after a year of firings, layoffs, pay freezes, and threats to cut compensation and holidays. The administrator also mentioned that they could use this program to offer labor instead of grants or funding to local organizations. However, the board resoundly denied the proposal as a waste of taxpayer money. 
  • Fleet manager Kevin Browning brought surplus property before the county to be sold, donated, and disposed of. The primary item would be van valued at approximately $1400 that would be donated to HEAT, a 501(c)(3) that helps veterans and first responders with PTSD. The board voted to deny the donation, because anyone who really needs it will pay for it. 
  • Scott Hechler, Director of Public Safety and Fire Chief, presented the board with a grant for thermal cameras that will help first responders identify people trapped in burning buildings. Commissioner Mitten made sure to establish that the cameras would only work when the first responders’ breathing apparatus was engaged, because “I’m not a fan of body cameras.”
  • County staff, along with representatives from FSU, provided an intricately detailed Housing Needs Analysis and Housing Action Plan for Hernando. They gathered statistical and demographic data and met with stakeholders throughout the community to develop the plan. The study established that we will need 24,000 housing units by 2040, in order to keep up with growth. They also established that houses sold for an average of $35,000 more in 2018 than they did in 2016. While rent has risen 13% over the last decade, wages have risen about 4%, and we lack diversity in housing that allows for accessible housing for people of all incomes and family sizes. The plan was stripped of the mechanism that would establish a fund to collect a percentage of surplus land sales to offset impact fees. With a growing population, rising housing prices, and a lack of diverse housing options, a BOCC that “disagrees with the data” provided by university experts and refuses to properly fund initiatives will harm the residents of our county long after their terms end.
  • Commissioner Champion’s Second Amendment Sanctuary resolution was passed unanimously. As our kids face the trauma of school shootings, Champion appears to be more dedicated to investing taxpayer time and resources into hyping up a non-existent threat.

As we enter an election year, we can only expect more of the same from these ultra-rightwing commissioners. With real needs — like education and affordable housing — not being properly funded, the sitting commissioners will continue to promulgate fear to their base and lavish praise upon their supporters. Talk to your neighbors: folks are concerned with bettering their children and paying their rent. As these sitting politicians vie for re-election, residents of Hernando County (particularly Independents) must ask themselves if our community needs an alternative to the all white, male, straight, wealthy, hyper-conservative status-quo.

Commissioner Champion has most absurd remark
“Out of respect for Bob Eaton and the builders, our 2 conservative school board members, as well as  the Chamber of Commerce that came forward and said for this minimal increase, I’m going to change my vote, and I’m going to vote for it. Out of respect for the … stakeholders in the community. But I warn you that it’s coming back next year. They’re going to come back next year, and they’re going to want more.”  — Commissioner Champion considering the real stakeholders affected by school impact fees, not the children, but his political friends and local business interests.

You can view this meeting’s materials here.

BOCC 12/10/19

  • Citizen Comments opened with an award presented to Christie Williams of Parks and Recreation by the Hernando Chamber of Commerce, opening a discussion of the close relationship between the BOCC, county staff, and the Chamber. The Chamber praised county staff’s prompt and enthusiastic support of the organization and its efforts.
  • Doug Chorvat, Clerk of the Circuit Court, presented an agreement for a $15 million line of credit with Suntrust bank. There were no other banks considered for this line of credit, primarily because the county’s dinged credit rating weakened our chances of receiving competitive offers.
  • Noticing that Cemex had donated $880 in material toward the restoration of the Bayport Pier (a project costing $918,320.58), Commissioner Champion made a point to praise the organization for being generous and helping the community. He condemned citizens who “demonize” Cemex.
  • Commissioner Allocco felt the need to comment on residents’ concern that Cemex is a transnational corporation. He argued that, while Cemex may be based out of Mexico, about 70% of its shareholders were American. Why is this an important fact when 84% of stock-value is owned by the ultrawealthy, while most Americans cannot afford to gamble in the stock market?
  • The BOCC received a formal letter from the State Division of Historical Resources nominating Weeki Wachee State Park for the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Commissioner Champion took the time to thank Hernando County firefighters for a response time of only 4 minutes. After reflecting on how grateful he was that they were there when his family needed them, he later went on to complain that his neighborhood doesn’t use the police, but he still must pay his fair share in taxes. Commissioner Champion lamented, more-or-less, that folks who don’t use public services shouldn’t have to pay for them; however, that is the point of public services: when you need them, they are there for you. Regardless of income, the firefighters and police are capable of assisting because we all pay taxes. Again, Commissioner Champion is discovering what it is like to live in something called a society
  • The board approved the rezoning of property across from Anderson Snow park for the expansion of a water reclamation facility. 
  • Lynette Mackey came before the BOCC to receive approval for the expansion of  a youth center off of Sunshine Grove Road. The organization provides before and after school programs, private school opportunities, and helps children who are struggling in school and in life. While the commission ultimately approved her application, this was a case study in racially-charged NIMBYism (not-in-my-back-yard). Mackey, many of her supporters, and many of the children she cares for are people of color. So when folks living off of the heavily trafficked road criticize the  daycare for removing the “country feel” and liken the future building to some sort of correctional facility, Hernando County residents must recognize the tacit racism. Moreover, many of those neighbors protesting were more concerned with being able to shoot their guns than the wellbeing of the program’s children. Commissioner Champion, after making a disclaimer that folks shouldn’t be shooting into adjacent properties, supported the For Each 1, Reach 1 organization for ensuring that these kids are “not running the streets, not getting picked up by the sheriff.”
  • The BOCC will discuss county purchasing policy reviews in January 2020, while the Future Land Use Map updates will be discussed in February 2020. 
  • The BOCC failed to reach an agreement with the Teamsters Labor Union to replace the President’s Day holiday with a floating holiday for employees. The union was concerned that the policy would not be fair to all employees, especially those who work irregular hours or run essential services. Making this change violates the collective bargaining agreement, and was therefore abandoned until CBA negotiations begin next year. 
definition of a CRA
  • Following the BOCC meeting was the Kass Circle CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency) meeting, in which Senior Planner, Michelle Miller, presented a well-organized and thorough Redevelopment Plan. In fact, it was so well put together that Commissioner Dukes felt the need to complain about it being too much information, and other commissioners complained that it was a plan for a big city, not a place like Hernando. The plan included ways to improve property values, quality of life, and safety in the densely populated area. While Commissioner Allocco voiced his dislike of using a CRA to support Kass Circle, Commissioner Champion plainly voiced his dislike of poor people. The commission spoke very harshly against this project and voted to set aside no money for the agency. Their current budget is about $420. 

The Hernando County BOCC continues to ignore and marginalize certain sets of constituents. While finding time to promote a multibillion dollar corporation for its in-kind donation that amounted to not even 0.1% of project costs, they are reluctant to promote communities like Kass Circle. They will stick to “low hanging fruit” to placate the residents that they themselves associate with nothing more than poverty and policing. The Hernando County Progressive Caucus meets in Kass Circle throughout the year, and we have members that live in Kass Circle. We don’t have to wonder if they feel well represented in Hernando County. Issues like this are commonplace throughout Hernando County, and reside at the cross section of race and class, power and inequity.

Commissioner Champion has most absurd remark
“It’s attracted [Kass Circle residents] because that is what poorer people can afford. That’s why they’re there, that’s why we have the issues. Let’s just face it. And that’s why we have the police presence like we do.” — Commissioner Champion describing the folks living in and around Kass Circle when discussing his opposition to the Kass Circle CRA

You can view these meetings’ materials here and here.