800-pound gorillas


Oh, how I long for the Good Ole’ Days.

I yearn for the days when people actually did what they said and did not try to cover up their misdeeds through modern-day “messaging,” scapegoating and backtracking using prepared statements aimed at saving face.

The March 27 and the April 10 meetings of the Board of County Commissioners are a study of contrasts. But they are also a study in what happens when people get angry, pay attention and then take steps to hold elected officials accountable.

We need more of that on every level of government.

Take for example, County Commissioner Diane Hutchings. On March 27, Hutchings hardly said two sentences when the BCC discussed and then voted on moving the county-owned ambulance from the Town of Orange Park’s Fire Department.

Yet, looking as though reading from a prepared statement at the April 10 meeting, Hutchings backtracked and spoke up for the residents of the town that sits inside her BCC district – a sharp contrast to the March 27 meeting.

Looking back, I’m guessing everybody now realizes how poorly the situation was handled. The new buzzword that for is ‘optics,’ I’m told.

I can’t help but think of what a disgrace it was in the March 27 meeting to not even ask Town Manager Sarah Campbell to speak at the BCC meeting. It’s called common courtesy.

Campbell and our reporter were the only two people sitting in the audience when county commissioners voted to move the ambulance.

Poor form on BCC leadership. Plain and simple.

No one attempted to make a motion that said, “Whoa! Wait a minute. Let’s take a step back and think about how this is going to play out. What harm would it cause to leave the ambulance there until the town gets its own certificate allowing it to run their own ambulance?”

Not. A. Peep.

Was it bad or zero counsel from the county manager that led to this vote? Was it bad advice from the county attorney or county fire chief? The truth is out there somewhere.

But, the fact still remains that within 30 minutes of the final gavel on March 27, the county took possession of its ambulance.

It’s great to see people take action. The April 10 BCC meeting was filled with town residents seeking answers.

Now, two weeks later, in walks the new 800-pound gorilla – funding School Resource Officers.

In a week, this issue morphed from ‘Hey, it’s not our job to fund them’ to ‘Hey, we’re in this all together.’

The messages that rose to the top in the April 18 workshop between the BCC and the Clay County School Board cannot be erased, however.

The BCC Chairman, Gavin Rollins, himself a teacher, interrupted a school board member to have the county attorney state whose statutory responsibility it is to fund the School Resource Officers.

What you do speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say. Oh, but wait. Six days later, in the April 24 BCC meeting, “I got your back, kids.” Bravo!

The real 800-pound gorilla here is the Florida Legislature. They (and the Governor-turned-Senate-candidate Rick Scott) brag about record spending for public education, particularly school safety, yet did not allocate the full funding needed to get the job done.

I challenge Clay County residents to pick up the phone and call their legislator and have an authentic conversation about this important issue.

The time for half-measures has come and gone. Put the gorilla back in the cage.


No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment