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You Sit on a Throne of Lies


That’s one of my favorite holiday movie quotes, and also what my colleague Dawn Kitterman said came to mind after reading her commissioner’s most recent newsletter. After giving it a gander myself, I couldn’t agree more.

On Tuesday, Manatee County Commission Chair Kevin Van Ostenbridge sent his constituents in District 3 the most recent edition of his digital newsletter—the one responsible for around 17,000 of his constituents having had highly sensitive personal data made public and instigating his most recent ethics complaint.

In it, Van Ostenbridge managed a level of deceitful propaganda that I imagine would have made even Joseph Goebbels swell with pride. The bougainvillea thief began by announcing "a major victory for our veterans" via the Tunnels to Towers project. Van Ostenbridge professed his excitement, calling it a "game-changing project" that his board "proudly facilitated."

Now, anyone who paid attention to the embarrassing escapades in which several of our supposedly veteran-loving commissioners did their very best to sabotage a potentially transformational project that will aid homeless veterans in our community in successfully transitioning toward becoming productive members of society knows that is a big old crock of poppycock.

In the competition as to who did the most toward scuttling a project that got a little too close in proximity to high-dollar planned development, Van Ostenbridge would definitely be in the running. In fact, the commissioner used the same platform to announce a town hall he would be hosting regarding a proposal for a “homeless shelter” in his district, echoing previous efforts to mischaracterize the project for the sake of ginning up public opposition.

Of course, Commissioner Jason “I’m a veteran, mumble, mumble, something constitution” Bearden served as the actual hatchet man, embarrassingly attacking a fellow veteran from the dais in another painfully transparent pitch to make his handlers proud. Bearden and Commissioner Mike Rahn, both of whom leaned heavily on their military service when running in 2022, cowardly made themselves unavailable for the first round of voting on the project. However, once it became clear that Van Ostenbridge’s propaganda and Bearden’s empty-headed ramblings had not only completely failed to fool the public but actually angered many of those who had shown up in opposition only to realize they had been hoodwinked, all six of the developer puppets joined Commissioner George Kruse to vote in approval.

To think that he can rewrite history and claim it as a victory in his reelection campaign speaks to the deficits in character and integrity that are the most defining characteristics of Van Ostenbridge’s personality. Rahn and Bearden’s shameful behavior on the matter notwithstanding, veterans tend to prize qualities like honor, a sense of duty and the courage to do the right thing even when it is not found along the path of least resistance. Of course, the closest Van Ostenbridge has come to serving our country was cosplaying from a general’s Army Jeep during the DeSoto parade. Clad in some sort of a blouse featuring the desecration of the American flag, the portly commissioner tossed beads to the crowd and surely imagined what a fearless leader he would have been had only he been able to muster the courage to serve.

There was also mention of how honored he was to welcome Governor DeSantis to Manatee County for the dedication of our new gubernatorial dog park, along with a picture of the two. Much has been made of DeSantis’ inability to smile like an actual human, but this might be his most awkward attempt to date. Apparently, our chair can manage to make even someone who swims in the swamp full-time feel like he needs to wash his hands. The picture also seems to lend additional credence to the idea that our governor wears special boots to make him look taller. Van Ostenbridge is rather short, but the proportions in this photo suggest that either DeSantis has the upper limb proportions of a penguin or he’s elevated.

Our governor looks decidedly more comfortable in this social media photo with Sarasota School Board member and Moms for Liberty co-founder Bridgette Ziegler. In fact, that looks like something that at least approaches an actual smile. I guess we now have a hint as to why that might be …

Bridget Ziegler and Gov. Ron DeSantis
Bridget Ziegler and Gov. Ron DeSantis

Van Ostenbridge went on to praise the work of the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH), a non-profit, grassroots organization that recently officially opened its 100-acre preserve near the historic Cortez Fishing Village. Van Ostenbridge lauded the group for having “revitalized a coastal wetland that was once an illegal dump site into a flourishing natural habitat seamlessly connected to Sarasota Bay.”

He added,  “As the only Manatee County Commissioner serving on the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (SBEP) Policy Board, I was honored to participate in the recent ribbon-cutting ceremony."

I received numerous communications from readers this week who were utterly appalled that Van Ostenbridge would make such a statement, given that he led the developer-ordered gutting of Manatee County’s wetland protection policies in a process that SBEP was not even invited to comment on. Yes, the “coastal commissioner” and SBEP policy board member singlehandedly did more to endanger our wetlands and the coastal waterways that rely on them than any other person in our county’s history, yet he’s happy to see the hard work other folks are putting in … so long as it doesn’t affect his sugar daddy’s bottom line.

If there’s good news, it’s that the Manatee County’s pint-sized tyrant will no longer be chairing the board come January. Either he didn’t want to risk the indignity of being voted from the position or figures that it will be somewhat easier to run for reelection in 2024 if he’s not seen as the tiny little man behind the curtain pulling the levers of the great and powerful Oz, but he opened Tuesday’s proceedings on the matter by taking himself out of contention.

In what seemed like a preordained process, given the total lack of comments or competing nominations, developer stooge Mike Rahn will get the gavel in 2024. As such, it would seem unlikely that we will see meaningful change, even if it will be somewhat nice to see fewer of his predecessor’s smug grins and hear less of his smarmy comments.

If you’re listening, Santa, all we want for Christmas is a new county commission. They've been rather naughty, and we've been quite nice. So, if you can't see your way to rounding them up and sentencing them to shovel reindeer droppings at the North Pole for the next year, at least stuff some stockings with criminal charges on the pending sunshine violation case and maybe throw in a meaningful finding or two from the ethics commission.

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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  • Removetheplantburglar






    Sunday, December 17, 2023 Report this

  • misty

    Thanks for the hilarious metaphors, Mitch - as we can at least laugh at the outrageous systemic corruption until they are held accountable.

    Sunday, December 17, 2023 Report this

  • nellmcphillips

    As a constituent of KVO that never voted for KVO and got in this predicament because of redistricting I still don’t get his newsletter. I have asked to get it and he said yes but still no newsletter. George Kruse has shown more interest in the communities that got redistricted than KVO has ever shown. Did you know that KVO represents the historic communities of Rubonia and Terra Ceia? Where was KVO when Rubonia homes flooded the last two hurricanes? KVO needs to go. Vote for change and integrity-vote Tal Siddique.

    Sunday, December 17, 2023 Report this

  • Julieperry279


    Sunday, December 17, 2023 Report this

  • David Daniels

    VanOstenbridge's blatant lies claiming to support veteran's and wetland protection are just the beginning. The real barn burner will be his claiming to restrict development, despite his vote rubber stamping 10's of thousands of suburban sprawl housing, approving thousands of acres of rezoning from Agriculture to Planned Development, and allowing massive clearcutting that strips every tree, buries every gopher tortoise, destroys every natural habitat, and creates miles of dust clouds. It has already started - they are taking credit for a recent ELMAC purchase despite KVO being against the voter-approved measure that REQUIRED setting aside funds to keep at least some of our county from being paved over. The Pedicini propaganda is already showing up all over social media - claiming this commission is stopping development and easing traffic jams. Give us a break, please. What Pedicini and KVO are really saying is that they think voters are stupid. These last 4 years have been a disaster. VOTE THEM OUT!

    Sunday, December 17, 2023 Report this

  • Cat L

    Thanks for making these shenanigans funny to read about. Pretty sure you didn't mean poppycock... but mumble, mumble Beardon made me laugh out loud.

    Sunday, December 17, 2023 Report this

  • Charles

    Degov: "we need to have Bridget in every county" — seems that everybody wants her and that she can make stoneface grin knowingly. One wonders what the bargaining chip was for the multimillion "fee" for an exit by the party chair (who likes to take secret videos)?

    Sunday, December 17, 2023 Report this

  • jimandlope

    I don’t seem to get this, “ newsletter either. Diana Shoemaker would be a far better choice for Van Overthebridge. Vote! Jim Tierney

    Sunday, December 17, 2023 Report this

  • rjckeuka4

    I don't get his newsletter either despite living in his district and being a "real" Republican! :)

    Sunday, December 17, 2023 Report this

  • WTF

    Let me pull back the curtain for "Rest of the Story" aka Paul Harvey

    Interesting fact, of the CARES and ARP monies of over 150 MILLION dollars were given to the county from FEDERAL monies, were did it go?

    Other than the 6 million of FEDERAL monies to pay utilities no other money was spend on the immediate need for housing for our Veterans and much needed wrap around services for all Veterans

    Lets not forget about the jail conversion for 15 million

    $15 Million promised for Veterans from the ARP monies

    6 Million for the dirt for Tunnel to towers, that's all the county did was buy the dirt with Federal monies, no other services for our Veterans for another 2 years when T2T will be done.

    9 Million balance should of stayed with housing and programs for Veterans

    Not the case at all.

    Out of the “9 Million” that was to be left over for immediate needs of our Veterans

    However 7.5 Million has ALREADY been diverted to other pet projects out of “general funds” when they moved the 15 Million into general funds and forgot about the jail and "promises"

    Never to be seen again except to re-apropreate in a sneaky agenda item

    That leaves a remaining balance of 1.5 Million. Only 10% of the 15 million

    Stepping up to the plate to drain the very last of the 15 million of it 1.5 million was Amanda Ballard for her pet project of "office design"

    So in reality Amanda like a housewife getting served divorce papers just had to drained the rest of the bank account that was promised to our Veterans

    That 1.5 million could of housed very know Veteran (80) in Manatee county for the next 2 years until Tunnel 2 Towers when it will be completed in 2 years

    Where were Bearden and Rahn saying "lets take a step back Amanda and look how we are going to house our Veterans who are sleeping on the streets today" was NEVER said EVER

    Nope, no funds whatsoever are left and our homeless Veterans are left out to dry for the next 2 years and not a peep from our 2 elected Veterans or the rest of the BOCC

    What a shameful act of destruction of any funds that would of helped our Veterans, homeless or otherwise for the next 2 years

    Satcher who was never on board with T2T project was ask point blank at his town hall meeting, "do you support Tunnel 2 Towers" he refused to answer that simple question.

    The remaining 9 million balance could have been used for

    Tents if a homeless wanted

    Temporary housing in local motels

    Mental heath issues

    Transportation for our Veterans

    So much more,

    Manatee County the most Anti-Veteran county in the Country for homeless Veterans

    Sunday, December 17, 2023 Report this

  • andreart

    I have never received a newsletter. I have lived in District 3 since 1969. Jorge (KVO’s aide), can you add me to the mailing list?

    Carol Whitmore

    Sunday, December 17, 2023 Report this