Week in review | Manatee County drama: You voted for this + 'DeSantis Park' coming to Manatee + new Palmetto pool to open + COVID deaths climb + AMI banks on summer tourism
The contentious debates at the Manatee County Commission meeting — whether it was about whether to extend Administrator Scott Hopes’ contract or to name a new dog park after Gov. Ron DeSantis — again illustrated a truism of our representative democracy: Elections matter.
It is easy to draw to lines from the results of the 2020 elections, and the victories for commissioners Vanessa Baugh, George Kruse, James Satcher and Kevin Van Ostenbridge, and the decisions made Tuesday. Hopes got his new contract and pay raise, despite some serious misgivings expressed by some residents and the county clerk and comptroller. And come next year, Manatee County will be home to DeSantis Park.
The latter decision also was a lot about the 2022 election. Commissioner Misty Servia accused Baugh of “hijacking” the process of naming a new park in Servia’s district to help a Baugh ally challenging Servia in the GOP primary, and to win the governor’s favor in advance of Baugh’s vaccinegate ethics hearing this summer. However, in the end, Servia, who during the discussion repeatedly expressed her bona fides as a DeSantis admirer, joined other Republicans on the commission in voting to name the new park after the governor.
Remember all this as the 2022 campaign season heats up this summer: Your votes matter.
Express yourself as much as you want on social media or in conversations with family, friends and neighbors. The rumble and tumble of the political season can be a valuable booster for our democracy
But most importantly, don’t forget to vote. (Florida residents can register here.)
Another reminder of the importance of elections this week: The massacre of 19 children and two teachers at their elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and the ensuing debate about whether more regulation of guns are needed.
We can hope and pray that maybe this massacre, finally, will bring some substantive changes in our gun laws but the doubters have a strong case. Sandy Hook didn’t do it. Neither did Parkland.
As long as voters keep electing lawmakers, like U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., whose campaign coffers are stuffed with money from the gun industry and its supporters, change is unlikely, despite the opinion polls showing support for changes to our gun laws.
Yes, pray, but also act.
That’s where we, the people, come in. This fall, vote as if your life, and the lives of your children, depend on it.
Related coverage | Manatee school's armed guard gains attention following Uvalde, Texas school shooting (Herald-Tribune)
Back to the drama that is Manatee County government.
Commissioner Baugh and Betsy Benac, a former Republican commissioner who served from 2012 to 2020, offered differing views of what is going on with county government.
From Baugh’s op-ed, published by YourObserver.com:
We need to continue to fuel the positive momentum we are carrying here in Manatee County — and not let those bent on division and destruction have their way.
Manatee County is changing. We are experiencing growth like we’ve never seen before. New neighbors. New opportunities. And new challenges. We hired a new administrator to help shepherd us through this important period of change. We need to let him do his job.
We need to do ours, too. We are re-aligning our working groups to do what we need to do even more efficiently to support our growing community.
Some departments are being reconfigured, others are being combined, but the changes are being done with efficiency, teamwork, and customer focus in mind.
We have already made great strides. From finally writing the closing chapters of the Piney Point saga, to our continuing work on improving infrastructure, to the expansion and upgrades in our parks, preserves and recreation centers.
As a group, a team, we have a lot ahead of us. That work is going to be tough, but rewarding
We can’t do things the way we’ve been doing it. We must be smarter, quicker, and more responsive, because all those new people moving here expect it.
I shudder to think what a new resident, watching our board’s performance May 24 for the first time, would have thought. It couldn’t have been good. We need to do better. It is my fervent hope that we will. I look forward to continuing our progress, serving our residents and visitors with the vision of making our community an even better place to live work and play.
From Benac’s op-ed, published by The Bradenton Journal:
One prominent developer made clear his goal to eliminate at least half of all county government positions in order to massively downsize local government. While the downsizing of government is a respectable goal, it isn’t clear what the results of this effort in Manatee County would be, or more importantly if this goal is supported by the citizens of Manatee County.
What is clear is current Administrator Scott Hopes is carrying out this directive, with the full support of the majority of the county commission. They are perfectly happy that Administrator Hopes is not respected by staff. Almost 600 employees have left under his leadership. Virtually every department has lost valuable employees, including those in leadership positions.
The most recent exit by an employee due to Hopes’ mismanagement is former Deputy Administrator and Chief Financial Office Jan Brewer, who has been the most important person in putting together the county budget. Scott Hopes has NO experience in running an organization of the size and budget of Manatee County. When Brewer resigned due to Hopes’ mismanagement, he had her escorted from the building (how dramatic).
The reality is that the county has spent extensive funds on trying to attract talent, even offering them immediate health benefits and other expensive perks. Yet like the recent hire of an HR director, the new hire bails out and quits as soon as they realize the ineptness of the county administrator and the toxic culture he has created.
Related coverage | Majority of Manatee County Commission sides with Hopes, rejects clerk's criticisms (The Bradenton Journal)
Related coverage | Manatee County's chief financial officer resigns (The Bradenton Journal)
Related coverage | Manatee County names interim chief financial officer (SRQ magazine)
Related coverage | Manatee clerk raises 'grave concerns' about how Administrator Scott Hopes is running county government (The Bradenton Journal)
Related coverage | What we know about the latest controversies in Manatee County (Herald-Tribune)
Related coverage | Opinion: It’s going to get worse before it gets better (Bradenton Times)
Other headlines you should know this week
COVID-19 death toll in Manatee-Sarasota continues to climb (The Bradenton Journal)
Anna Maria Island banking on summer tourism (The Islander)
Florida sales tax holiday for hurricane supplies begins Saturday (USA Today Network — Florida)
Holmes Beach residents file lawsuit over beach access (WFLA)
Holmes Beach mayor airs issues on Kingfish boat ramp plans (The Islander)
Bradenton Beach retains outdoor expansion for businesses (The Islander)
Manatee County Government @ManateeGovThe Lincoln Aquatic Center is already a hit--taking less than eight hours for all the test-splash slots to fill up at its soft-opening Memorial Day Weekend: https://t.co/uTw0OR8s19 https://t.co/seqztWTVpV
Why suicides have dropped dramatically on Tampa Bay’s Skyway Bridge in the past year (Bradenton Herald)
$54 million in new projects approved for Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (Herald-Tribune)