Log in Subscribe

Another Fine Mess is Headed Our Way


On Tuesday, Manatee County Commissioners will take up a late addition to the agenda that would move the county’s historical resources department from the clerk and comptroller’s office to the county government’s sports & leisure services department. The bone-headed idea is all but surely the brainchild of Manatee County Commission Chair Kevin Van Ostenbridge and his ongoing war on women in positions of authority who do not pretend to be sufficiently impressed by the tiny tyrant who is running Manatee County Government on behalf of his developer sugar daddy.

This is also yet another instance in which a sure-to-be controversial item was added after the deadline to submit written public comment. This means that those who wish to weigh in on the matter will have to attend the workday meeting in person, since this board has eliminated phone-in comments, lest they be forced to hear from a dissatisfied public they have no intention of listening to anyway.

The department oversees the Manatee Village Historical Park, the Palmetto Historical Park, the Manatee County Agricultural Museum, the Florida Maritime Museum at Cortez, and the Historical Records Library at the 1918 Carnegie Library downtown. It is staffed by competent and dedicated employees with a sincere passion for preserving the rich history of Manatee County and is a significant component of the legacy of former clerk/comptroller R.B. “Chips” Shore, who was one of the finest public servants the county has known (and who is surely rolling over in his grave as these dimwits dismantle the community he helped to build).

According to a slide show the county hastily slapped together, it will improve efficiency and marketing opportunities and a bunch of other word salad. In reality, it is one more thumb in the eye to Shore’s successor and former top deputy, current clerk & comptroller Angelina Colonneso. Colonneso has had the unforgivable gall to continue doing her job in the face of the special interest capture that has corrupted the entire county administration. Since she represents one of the few thorns in Van Ostenbridge’s side that he hasn’t been able to push out and the last real link to the legacy administration these last two boards inherited and continue to gut, he’s been peppering her with petty budgetary slights and snide comments at every possible turn.

It is questionable whether the plan, as presented, even passes legal muster, and I would bet dollars to donuts that it is not the result of a patient and thoughtful process in which the clerk and department personnel were consulted on how to best transition and all that would be involved in such a move. No, it is far more likely another impulsive and petulant act akin to an ill-tempered baby flinging his Gerber’s across the kitchen from his high chair. 

What’s more, this government has had the reverse Midas touch, turning everything it has gotten its hands on into a big pile of something that looks and smells like the giant mounds of Lyngbia that are fouling our local waterways, even before their moronic plan to gut the county’s wetland protection policies goes into effect. Cases in point include its plan to take over the Coquina Beach Market, start a water taxi service without a contract with a service provider or adequate agreements with island cities, and spend tens of millions of dollars on a beach parking garage that will add only a few hundred spaces and do little more than exacerbate traffic issues on the island. If anything, this anemic brain trust should be looking to jettison as many responsibilities as possible, rather than taking on more, especially ones that are currently managed competently elsewhere.

Tuesday’s meeting will also include an update on the county administrator position, which might mean that the board will announce its current stooge, acting county administrator Charlie Bishop, as its permanent lackey unless the other finalist has managed to convince them that he’s up for the job of serving their real boss after all. The county will also present a new program for vetting and training volunteers that will likely make it easier for staff to avoid having to “fire” the members of its free labor force that engage in any sort of activism or even criticism when the department they are serving is in severe disarray the way it recently did with a number of animal services volunteers.

Winston Churchill once said, “I no longer listen to what people say, I just watch what they do. Behavior never lies.” These bought-and-paid-for clown puppets continue to show us who they are each and every time the gavel strikes the dais. I hope enough people are finally watching.

Dennis "Mitch" Maley is an editor and columnist for The Bradenton Times and the host of our weekly podcast. With over two decades of experience as a journalist, he has covered Manatee County government since 2010. He is a graduate of Shippensburg University and later served as a Captain in the U.S. Army. Click here for his bio. His 2016 short story collection, Casting Shadows, was recently reissued and is available here.


9 comments on this item

Only paid subscribers can comment
Please log in to comment by clicking here.

  • misty

    No words.

    Sunday, September 10, 2023 Report this

  • N_Alice_Newlon

    As if that were not enough. Item 10 on the agenda is the misleadingly named, Resolution R-23-145, "Prohibiting County funds to be used for Planned Parenthood or any abortion provider or to provide any abortion services" is scheduled to be heard and voted on by Manatee County Commissioners next Tuesday, September 12th at the 9am meeting.

    If passed, this could start a witch hunt with the local nonprofits that could cut off county funding for much needed social services.

    WHAT IT ACTUALLY DOES, is it restricts any nonprofit who receives even $1 of Manatee County funds from collaborating with or utilizing the services of Planned Parenthood or any other abortion provider including comprehensive *** education, contraception and more. Planned Parenthood provides a wide range of women's health services but this government putting the entire nonprofit community that are providing services the county would otherwise need to do at risk.

    Sunday, September 10, 2023 Report this

  • Dianna

    Thank you, Mitch, for saying it out loud. Keep the list- it’s too long for the public to keep track of all the destruction. Shelter volunteers fired without cause because they spoke out about the terrible conditions of the shelters. Interim county administrator or volunteer-the county does not follow its own rules and the reward for stepping up is termination. Item 10- allows the commissioners to continue the hate by holding funding from the citizens who need it most. Item 55- moves Historical resources to sports and leisure? Item 60- Bearden is trying to blow up the Tunnels to Towers Veterans Housing project although it is under the guise of “Discussion on Alternative Veterans Housing” to keep the Veterans and the public from turning out at the meeting. That's almost like calling it a "homeless shelter" and having a town hall. The utility property is wanted by a developer OBVIOUSLY and to hell with those pesky veterans. The public can’t comment in writing or by phone- and most can’t come in person because they ACTUALLY WORK. A lot of written public comment that is submitted is not being posted in the appropriate place or anywhere on the agenda- and it doesn’t matter how early you send it. Stupidity at its finest, with the exception of Kruse.

    Sunday, September 10, 2023 Report this

  • CathySlusser

    As retired Director of Historical Resources, I appreciate the support and public outcry over this senseless proposal. I'd like to weigh in on some background.

    First, a little history of the history department. In 1983, R.B. “Chips” Shore, Manatee County Clerk of Circuit Court and Comptroller, was approached by the members of the Manatee County Historical Commission to assist with operations of Manatee Village Historical Park, a collection of historical buildings first assembled as part of the United States Bicentennial in 1976. By 1983, the park consisted of three buildings and had two employees. These two employees were part of the Parks and Recreation Department. The Historical Commission and the park staff were having difficulty working with Parks and Recreation, a department unfamiliar with the needs of historic buildings and historic preservation in general.

    Shore had already recognized the importance of preserving Manatee County’s history and was in the process of creating the Manatee County Historical Records Library, which became the first library of its kind in Florida. An agreement was made, and an ordinance drafted and adopted by the Manatee County Board of County Commission placed Manatee Village Historical Park and the Manatee County Historical Commission under the Clerk’s care. As a result, not only did the park grow physically with the addition of more buildings, but the programs and educational opportunities planned and implemented by Clerk’s staff were recognized throughout the state and served as a model for other communities.

    The partnership was so successful that soon other historical organizations in the community requested to be added to the Clerk’s Office. Over time, the Palmetto Historical Park, owned and operated by the City of Palmetto and the Palmetto Historical Commission, the Manatee County Agricultural Museum, operated by the Manatee County Agricultural Museum Board and the Florida Maritime Museum, owned by Manatee County, joined the Clerk’s Office Historical Resources Department. These relationships came together through partnerships and agreements that have worked successfully for decades.

    In total, twenty historical buildings and an old steam locomotive have been preserved and maintained within the department These buildings are open on a regular basis and are free to the public. They include collections of artifacts ranging from boats to tractors, clothing to quilts, lamps to lawnmowers and everything in between. The departments programs continue to win recognition on a local and state level. These four museums along with the Manatee County Historical Records Library have successfully worked to educate the community about the past and to help residents experience what life was like for the early pioneers and residents of the various communities that make up our county.

    All this work has been accomplished through the work of the staff of the Clerk of Circuit Court and Comptroller’s Office. It is important to note that last part of the office’s name, Comptroller. Staff work directly for the Clerk and therefore, follow all the rules for purchasing such as documentation and competitive bidding. The funds that are spent in support of our community’s history are not spent lightly and are subject to intense scrutiny. It is costly to restore and maintain historic buildings, artifacts, and documents, but the work is done well and within budget each year.

    So, why now? Why all of a sudden the urge to move Historical Resources under a county department currently called Sports and Leisure, that was formerly known as Parks and Recreation? The same Parks and Recreation that once administered Manatee Village Historical Park before the agreement was made to place it under the Clerk of Circuit Courts Office forty years ago.

    The museums run efficiently. Their programs are popular in the community. Their exhibits are engaging and informative. The buildings are maintained and available for free to keep the past alive for both residents and visitors (visitors who come to Manatee County and spend dollars that benefit us all.)

    I could give you stats and financial documentation supporting heritage education and historic preservation, but their importance is not what is being debated here. What’s being proposed is the move of highly successful and popular organizations from the Clerk of Circuit Court and Comptroller to another department. No one has asked for it. No one can point out a need for it. No one knows why. It's up to us to preserve what has successfully worked for so long.

    Sunday, September 10, 2023 Report this

  • ruthlawler

    Sports and Leisure?? Really?? Our incredible Historical Resources MUST be maintained as they are...with respect, efficiency and professionally. These amazing sites are NOT pickleball courts! Have our County Commissioners even visited all of these sites, or any of these sites? Do they even understand the historical importance and treasures these historical sites provide to our community?? Each and every one has a special place in our County's significance and history, are precious and irreplaceable resources with artifacts that all residents have access; and are efficiently, professionally and respectfully maintained by our Clerk of the Court and the staff of that office. I'm especially concerned about the Historical Records Library, located in the old Carnegie Library. This is an amazing collection of historical documents and records going back generations in Manatee County history....which has NOTHING to do with Sports and Leisure! This invaluable resource is used by historians, surveyors, real estate professionals, genealogists and attorneys, as well as the general public. These records have professional staff who are incredibly knowledgeable and helpful. NOTHING to do with Sports and Leisure!!! It is insulting, disrespectful and ignorant to suggest that Sports and Leisure is better equipped to administer these historical treasures, and the other historic properties that are currently under the respectful administration of the Clerk of the Court. I am again appalled at our current Board of County Commissioners, as they have repeatedly demonstrated making a farce through their actions. Remember the Coquina Beach Market? How about the recent action to roll back wetland buffers and shun the advice of scientists and experts as well as hundreds of concerned citizens. This is a heavy handed, illogical and spiteful move that will cause much damage to our precious historical sites and resources. DO NOT move the Historical Resources under Sports and Leisure!

    Ruth Lawler

    Sunday, September 10, 2023 Report this

  • san.gander

    I agree with Dennis. Another bone headed idea from Commissioner Van Ostenbridge. Moving the Historical Resources Department improves nothing, saves nothing, and is likely illegal. Does that sound smart? The current location within the clerk and comptroller’s office works! The old saying, if it ain't broke don't fix it!

    Any plan that hints of marketing scares me. If I didn't know this was Manatee County instead of an old Star Trek Second Gen show... I'd swear the Manatee County Commissioners are a bunch of "Frenegi", whose highest goal is "focused on the acquisition of profit" not public service - can franchising resturants, or fast food trucks on historic public property be far behind. Maybe sell off public assets to developers next under the claims of "good public business".

    The community could see a loss of priceless environmental assets, natural habitat and landscape... all developed; and closed off forever from the public, until like Piney Point, poluted, requiring public tax money to remedy a privatized disaster.

    Sunday, September 10, 2023 Report this

  • Fishhead

    Stumpy must go. ASAP

    Sunday, September 10, 2023 Report this

  • Debann

    HEY DISTRICT 3...a majority voted the jackass in its up to you to vote HIM out...

    Monday, September 11, 2023 Report this

  • Removetheplantburglar






    Thursday, October 26, 2023 Report this