It's interesting to observe the rhetoric that is spouted each week on "why this is" and "why that is" and how conservative everyone has become with the public's money. After all, taxes have been lowered to rock bottom, although not as low as some would desire, and Hernando County has cut to the bone, or so they say.
I've watched the county change tremendously over the last 17 years. In the past, with the prodding of the county fathers, decisions about the county and its direction were made for the most part on a long-term basis. What we do now will affect the future generations that live here.
Times do change, though. The direction of the commission(s) elected over the last eight to 10 years has changed from one of prudence in government to one of policies and decisions based on expediency. Short-term fulfillment rules the day.
Since politicians by nature want to give things to people because that wins them elections and the power that comes with those offices, they never really want to take things away from the public. Things like parks and boat ramps and beaches and paved roads and schools and big jails and a cop on every corner and all that other bad government stuff.
Well, the true conservatives came up with another theory to force government to become smaller — starve the beast. Rather than proposing unpopular spending cuts, conservatives would push through popular tax cuts, with the deliberate intention of worsening the government's fiscal position.
And that is exactly what has happened. The deficits came and the beast is starving, as planned. It should be time, then, for conservatives to explain which parts of the beast they want to cut, but they won't. Remember, politicians never want to take anything away from the public — that's really not what the public wants either. The public has gotten used to all the goodies and not having to pay for them.
So what has been the Hernando County answer? Well, the biggest thing done has been putting a whole lot of people out of work. If you notice the public really hasn't had anything taken away yet, but that can't go on for long, the county is broke and getting broker.
Government departments are fighting for the leftover scraps and they all cannot be fed. That is why you see two of the constitutional officers taking over various programs that had previously been the responsibility of the County Commission. They know full well that they get control of the money, your tax money, that comes with taking over these programs. And in the future others will be there with their paws out wanting more of the scraps, because the cost to run the program was more than what they thought and you know, you can't just shut down these programs, it would jeopardize public safety and the financial integrity of the county.
I've tried to stay away from my own recent history with Hernando County, however, I do want to clear up one point. The Hernando County Jail was run exactly as the commissions and administrations of this county wanted it run — cheap — and that is exactly what CCA did. The jail is not falling apart and it should not take $3 million to turn it into some kind of Taj Mahal. The records of independent inspections of the facility are all there with the truth, but that wouldn't fit the script of the politicians.
Hernando County is being run by the people you elected. You, the public, put them there to be your representatives and to act in your interest and to make the hard decisions necessary to administer a government that takes care of the real needs of the whole population, not just the political insiders. The public needs to decide if this county and state are better off now with these people in charge or not.
Jim Gantt is former purchasing director for Hernando County.