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From the Gutter to the Sewer


Just when you think Manatee County Government and its board of developer-bought-and-paid-for commissioners cannot get any lower than the gutter they’ve been inhabiting, they tunnel themselves right into the sewer.

At Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners were supposed to appoint four members to the Manatee County Library Advisory Board. This was after the very same board voted to expand the board from five to nine seats in a painfully transparent effort to stack it with far-right wingnuts hell-bent on banning books in order to “protect the children.”

However, instead of attracting a bunch of backward, regressive idealogues, the call for applicants yielded an impressive cadre of well-intentioned volunteers. Manatee County Library Services Manager Tammy Parrott told commissioners it was "the most robust application pool I have seen since I started working at the county." Indeed, the 13 applications included 10 Bachelor’s Degrees, in addition to some Master's Degrees and even one doctorate.

This should have been the easiest vote of the day, especially given that commissioners have continuously lamented the overall lack of applicants they've been able to attract to other advisory boards. Two commissioners, George Kruse and Ray Turner, seemed pleased with the results and ready to vote.

However, commissioners Amanda “Ban the Books” Ballard and Kevin "I do what Carlos tells me" Van Ostenbridge were clearly uncomfortable moving forward, with some largely unintelligible support from Commissioner Jason Bearden. When the latter two struggled to communicate the reason for the reluctance to their fellow commissioners, Van Ostenbridge said the quiet part out loud, explaining that he didn’t find the applicants to be of the proper ideological persuasion.

Keep in mind that advisory boards have absolutely no binding authority. They exist merely to study an issue for which they hold some expertise and advise the board of what they’ve found so that commissioners might make more informed decisions. But this commission clearly only wants to be told what it wants to hear. From making it so that the public can no longer publicly comment at meetings via telephone to removing public comments from county social media accounts, the administration and its snowflake board clearly wish to exist in a bubble through which divergent thought cannot penetrate.

This week, the county reopened applications for the library advisory board, and commissioners can now cross their collective fingers that the public will get the hint and that only the ideologically simpatico need apply.

Inside their precious little bubble, commissioners were treated to a first-rate bootlicking session from Charlie Hunsicker, Director of the county’s Natural Resources Department. Hunsicker, the highest-paid director in the county, lavished praise on the board for all it has done to nourish clean water supplies, conveniently leaving out the board’s asinine decision to gut wetland protections. Hunsicker, who saw his role somewhat diminished in a recent “reorganization,” has clearly gotten the message that sticking to the approved script is the only way to avoid the fate of so many other top administrators in the county who dared to stray from it.

That said, if the water quality outlook really is as rosy as Hunsicker proclaimed, the board might want to better explain why it is investing upward of a million dollars into an extremely suspect plan to plant clams that some non-experts claim will clean it up.

Meanwhile, the taxpayer-funded PR department created to “control the narrative” continues to pump out videos of commissioners taking the credit for any work that somehow does get done and glowing press releases that read suspiciously like campaign mail pieces. Welcome to Manatee County, where we prize freedom—as in the freedom to agree with the bought-and-paid-for stooges representing you in local government if not the freedom to disagree with them publicly.

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.


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  • Cat L

    Spot on.

    Sunday, January 28 Report this

  • magstarwire

    Keep fighting, Mitch

    Sunday, January 28 Report this

  • Carolannfelts

    It’s very sad that all of this is so blatantly obvious to those who keep an eye on or ear to local government. What’s sadder is that so few of the our residents even know what district they are in, who their commissioners are, and what they do, or are supposed to be doing. For a “liberty” loving board, the propaganda being produced by our tax dollars seems to be based on a play by Castro, or taking a page out of the “How Not To Be Re-Elected” book.

    We can only hope and help our fellow citizens to be more educated, informed and involved voters in the 2024 Republican primary to reset and recover from four of the most tumultuous and ridiculous years in Manatee County’s political history.

    Sunday, January 28 Report this

  • nellmcphillips

    You got that right. All of a sudden I see county staff everywhere in the neighborhood when usually the only ones I see are code enforcement. The self grandizing videos are ridiculous. KVO is painting himself a pretty picture as he tries to run again. Don’t believe the hype. Read the Bradenton Times.

    Sunday, January 28 Report this

  • klmsinc

    Opinions are like Posteriors, everybody has one and they all stink. They also come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

    With that said I will proceed.

    I agree with you on the issue of Manatee County Government. Not at all points but there is no doubt something very wrong.

    The issue on "banning the books", I don't see it as you do.

    Liberal viewpoint feels they are losing their freedom and at some time or another even the most conservative person feels as if they are losing their freedoms. The book issue is very troubling, so is the Federal Government banning under adult age children from using internet. I know it is not all internet so don't strain, just hear me.

    Let's take something very easy such as murder. There are laws that say we are not to murder people. Well a person that does not want to practice restraint or perhaps labeled "taking responsibility for their actions" could say they are being deprived their freedom. Facetious? Very but there are people who think like that.

    The book issue in my estimation is the same, every person is responsible for what they put in their mind. Well I don't think every household is doing that and there are a lot of degenerates loose on the streets and there is a society to protect. Conclusion- somethings got to give. It would be wonderful if we all practiced morality, it would be wonderful if we just stopped lying or the other side of the coin, we were truthful. Try it for a day and see how personally off base any of us are!

    Monday, January 29 Report this