Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Florida Politics
  4. /
  5. The Buzz

Citrus County commissioners vote down New York Times digital subscriptions

After two hours of debate, a motion to move forward with digital subscriptions for library cardholders fails 3-2.
United States Air Force veteran Daniel Carmichael, of Inverness, shares his opinion before a meeting of the Board of County Commissioners of Citrus County on Tuesday, November 19, 2019, at the Citrus County Courthouse in Inverness, where the Citrus County Commission is expected to render a decision on whether to get digital subscriptions for the New York Times for all 70,000 of the county library cardholders. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | TImes]
Published Nov. 19
Updated Nov. 22

INVERNESS — First, the news.

The Citrus County commissioners voted on Tuesday to reject a digital subscription to the New York Times for 70,000 local library cardholders. A motion for the county to move forward with the $2,700 digital subscription, instead of its current print subscription, failed 3-2.

But as with everything else in this very now scandal, the vote went well beyond the news.

READ THE LATEST: Money raised for Citrus County’s New York Times subscription will go back to donors

RELATED: Amid Trump-NYT controversy, everyone has a thought for Citrus County

***

This was supposedly about words.

Specifically those in the New York Times, and whether or how library cardholders of this West Central county should read them. There were also the words from Citrus commissioners, who in the name of President Donald Trump, pushed back on a new digital subscription to the Times for the library. “Fake news,” one had said, but then new words came, landing in the commissioners’ inboxes, from all around the country.

“Lies.”

“Turds.”

“Manatees,” and where could they be seen outside Citrus, a tourist destination that some people now wanted to boycott ... in the name of (or perhaps a sign of) the Times?

“Laughing stock," which Commissioner Ron Kitchen had referenced to describe his county as he accused the local newspaper, the Citrus County Chronicle, of throwing their home “under the bus internationally.” He had actually been the first to question the subscription at a meeting last month.

Four-letter words and misspelled words. Words injected like hot air into an expanding culture war, hanging over the county seat in Inverness. There were no last words, only loud ones.

Citrus County commissioners, from left, Jimmie T. Smith, Scott Carnahan, Brian Coleman, Ron Kitchen, and Jeff Kinnard attend a meeting of the Board of County Commissioners of Citrus County on Tuesday, November 19, 2019, at the Citrus County Courthouse in Inverness. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | TImes]

Read More: Welcome to Citrus County, Fla., home to the culture war for a day

RELATED: Welcome to Citrus County, Fla., home to the culture war for a day

***

Since Oct. 24, when Citrus commissioners first discussed the subscriptions, two new candidates entered the 2020 presidential race. The public phase of the impeachment hearings surrounding Trump began in Washington D.C. And in historic downtown Inverness, workers hung tinsel decorations for Christmas.

In that span, the county’s conservative majority, or at least some of it, got fired up. Meanwhile, protesters filled an interim meeting earlier this month to admonish the commissioners.

On Tuesday, one of the first speakers said he showed up at the Citrus County Courthouse at 11:15 a.m., an hour and forty five minutes before the meeting began. He had come to speak against the digital subscription. So did many others.

Citrus County residents attend a meeting of the Board of County Commissioners of Citrus County on Tuesday, November 19, 2019, at the Citrus County Courthouse in Inverness where the Citrus County Commission is expected to render a decision on whether to get digital subscriptions for the New York Times for all 70,000 of the county library cardholders. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | TImes]

They donned Trump hats and military hats. They lined up single file from the lectern, next to the placard that read: “Gentlemen, please remove hats and caps while in Commission Chambers.”

One man read a book, “Triggered,” by Donald Trump Jr. A woman in a pink “Women for Trump” shirt wore American flag boots on her feet and a Confederate flag purse on her shoulder.

As they waited for the meeting to begin, a man with a Trump 2020 pin asked the guy sitting next to him: “If we are responsible for climate change, then why can’t we stop the hurricanes?”

The guy standing next to him later fired back: “You really think Hillary Clinton won by three million votes? She probably lost by two million.”

Their conversation was broken when the local clerk called for everyone’s attention to start the invocation. She made a plea to the Lord: “Come, be with us, and let our lives be a light to a dark world.”

Citrus County residents line up to give public input on the issue of using public funds for digital subscriptions for the New York Times before the Board of County Commissioners of Citrus County on Tuesday, November 19, 2019, at the Citrus County Courthouse in Inverness. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | TImes]

***

At first, the commissioners thought it was funny. When they discussed the digital subscription during the meeting Oct. 24, laughter spilled from the dais. There weren’t many people in the room to hear it.

RELATED: Commissioners call New York Times ‘fake news,’ deny library funding for digital subscriptions

“Fake news, I agree with President Trump,” Commissioner Scott Carnahan said. “I don’t want the New York Times in this county. I don’t agree with it, I don’t like 'em, it’s fake news and I’m voting no.”

The commissioners withdrew the motion to approve the subscription and moved on.

Or so they thought.

Citrus County Commissioner Scott Carnahan, district 4, attends a meeting of the Board of County Commissioners of Citrus County on Tuesday, November 19, 2019, at the Citrus County Courthouse in Inverness. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | TImes]

What followed was a history lesson on the year 2019, typed in real time, with fury and haste. Some people called or offered donations to the library.

At a subsequent meeting, Kitchen prayed. “We can no longer have a conversation between one another," he said. Later: “I’m supposed to apologize for being male, I won’t. I’m supposed to apologize for being white, I won’t. That’s the way God made me.”

Carnahan mentioned the First Amendment, and the Second, saying he was an engaged citizen who used both. “I can read," he said.

A former teacher called the commissioners “scallywags.” Another woman said they were practicing “medieval censorship."

The commissioners said the libraries already received a couple hard copies of the Times. They weren’t censoring anything.

***

Debbie Bland, left, and Alexandra White, (both) of Brooksville, ride past the Citrus County Chronicle offices in downtown Inverness on Tuesday, November 19, 2019, near the courthouse where county commissioners met to discuss the issue of digital subscriptions for the New York Times for all 70,000 of the county library cardholders. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | TImes]

The conversation only grew more heated. It hit a crescendo Tuesday. So many people attended, officials opened up an overflow room. Three sheriff’s deputies stood by the door.

“The more you give in on these issues to a noisy faction, the more that faction will demand," said Michael Fuller, of Lecanto. Later, he declined to speak to a reporter. “I don’t talk to papers,” he said.

“Vote no or at least delay it until after the election to keep it from being such a political hot potato,” said Valentine Kalavsky, from Inverness, who added that the New York Times is against Christians.

Valentine Kalavsky, of Inverness, speaks before a meeting of the Board of County Commissioners of Citrus County on Tuesday, November 19, 2019, at the Citrus County Courthouse in Inverness, where the Citrus County Commission is expected to render a decision on whether to get digital subscriptions for the New York Times for all 70,000 of the county library cardholders. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | TImes]

“You let the New York Times in and what’s coming next?" asked Cheryl Melton, 75, of Citrus Springs. "What radical publication is coming next?”

Beryl St. Jacques, of Beverly Hills, chided the commissioners, who had repeatedly asked for civility as people laughed during other speakers’ time.

“You’ve asked us to come here and be polite to each other,” she said. "You were not polite last month.”

Elissa Malcohn, of Beverly Hills, said the commissioners were gaslighting by saying they were being bullied.

Valerie Esser, of Floral City, said all they did was “parrot” Trump.

“I assume you all have brains,” she said. “So y’all can think for yourselves.”

Gloria Sfameni, of Citrus Hills, implored: “We have enough already going on in this world.” She said she was from Brooklyn, but never read the Times. “It just didn’t turn me on.”

The commissioners were set to vote on whether to replace the existing library print subscription to the Times ($2,900), with a digital subscription at a savings of $200.

Several had already made up their minds before the public commented.

"If the New York Times wants to be in Citrus County, let them donate,” Kitchen said.

"The bottom line is I’m not backing down. I’m not voting for this,” Carnahan said. Going further, he didn’t think public money should pay for any news subscriptions.

Commissioner Jimmie Smith held up his phone.

"I've yet to find a cause to pay for something that covers topics in the news that you can't already find some place else for free,” he said.

Citrus County Commissioner Ron Kitchen, district 2, attends a meeting of the Board of County Commissioners of Citrus County on Tuesday, November 19, 2019, at the Citrus County Courthouse in Inverness. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | TImes]

***

As the hours ticked by, Daniel Carmichael, 65, sat rod-straight in the middle of the meeting room. Behind a gray beard and thin glasses, he stared at the commissioners and occasionally held up a sign. Black marker, white poster board.

“I didn’t fight for your freedom just so you could vote mine away," it read.

When he finally took his turn at the lectern, Carmichael, who said he was in the U.S. Air Force, held another sign, with the words “ad hominem." He told everyone in the room to go home and look it up.

If they did, they’d find two definitions from Merriam-Webster:

“Appealing to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect.”

“Marked by or being an attack on an opponent’s character rather than by an answer to the contentions made.”

The Valerie Theatre, 207 Courthouse Square, Inverness, near the Citrus County Courthouse where the Board of County Commissioners of Citrus County met on Tuesday, November 19, 2019, to discuss the issue of digital subscriptions for the New York Times for all 70,000 of the county library cardholders. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | TImes]

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Transgender student Drew Adams speaks with reporters outside of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Adam's fight over school restrooms came before a federal appeals court Thursday, setting the stage for a groundbreaking ruling. Adams, who has since graduated from Nease High in Ponte Vedra, Fla., won a lower court ruling last year ordering the St. Johns County school district to allow him to use the boys' restroom. The district has since appealed. RON HARRIS  |  AP
    The closely watched case of Drew Adams, once a high school student in Florida, is heard by a three-judge panel in Atlanta.
  2. An example of the type of white railway markings the Florida Department of Transportation plans on installing on the either side of more than 4,000 railway crossings in the state. Florida Department of Transportation
    The department will paint new markings on more than 4,000 railway crossings in the state.
  3. Michele Arceneaux, former president of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, speaks during a press conference against three proposed toll roads in the Florida Capitol on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. LAWRENCE MOWER  |  Lawrence Mower
    The announcement came as the Florida Chamber of Commerce touted the proposed roads.
  4. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
Members of the Florida Supreme Court listen to a speech by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Tuesday, March 5, 2019 in the Florida House during a joint session of the Florida Legislature. Left to Right are: Chief Justice Charles T. Canady, Ricky Polston, Jorge Labarga, Alan Lawson, Barbara Lagoa, and Robert J. Luck.  SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Fights over abortion, Amendment 4 and new congressional maps are all on a crash course with the high court.
  5. The Florida House Education Committee focuses on early education in its first meeting of the 2020 session. It has met just once more since then. The Florida Channel
    Lawmakers have yet to set an aggressive agenda beyond talk of teacher pay as the 2020 legislative session nears.
  6. Kevin J. Thibault, left, Secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation. OCTAVIO JONES   |   TIMES  |  Times
    The report found a lack of oversight and controls by the department.
  7. Agriculture commissioner Nikki Fried speaks at pre-legislative news conference on Tuesday Oct. 29, 2019, in Tallahassee, Fla. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wants his state to set up a system that will require employers to verify the immigration status of job applicants. But it's unclear if that effort will get any traction among lawmakers, especially since a similar effort failed during the most recent legislative session earlier this year. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon) STEVE CANNON  |  AP
    It was the second unusual decision Fried has made to refrain from voting on the Office of Financial Regulation.
  8. George Buck, left, a Republican running for Congress in St. Petersburg, signed a fundraising letter that suggested U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, right, a Somali-born Democrat representing Minnesota, and other Democrats should be executed. Buck is challenging U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg. Times | Associated Press
    House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy removed Buck from the party’s Young Guns program.
  9. FILE - In this Oct. 22, 2018 file photo, people gather around the Ben & Jerry's "Yes on 4" truck as they learn about Amendment 4 and eat free ice cream at Charles Hadley Park in Miami. A federal judge has temporarily set aside a Florida law that barred some felons from voting because of their inability to pay fines and other legal debts. The ruling handed down Friday, Oct. 18, 2019 by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle means thousands of felons who were denied the right to vote will be able to cast ballots unless the state gets a higher court to intervene or if Hinkle later upholds the constitutionality of the state law. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File) WILFREDO LEE  |  AP
    The 2018 ballot measure passed by voters allowing most non-violent felons to register to vote would be void if an earlier judicial ruling is upheld, an attorney representing DeSantis’ administration...
  10. In this Aug. 28, 2014, photo, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko makes a statement, at Boryspil airport in Kiev, Ukraine. (AP Photo/Mikhail Palinchak)
    Taking a closer look at what the story does — and doesn’t — show about Ukraine’s involvement in 2016.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement