"You don't know what you don't know. So never stop educating yourself," my grandpa used to opine during my childhood. I can still hear his Southern drawl as it dragged out the words.
That was never more true than yesterday when I got an education from the Tampa Bay Times. https://www.tampabay.com/news/florida/2021/06/11/city-of-brooksville-accidentally-sells-its-water-tower/
So what did I learn?
1. Bad government is offended at being exposed
Remember the scene in The Wizard of Oz when Toto pulls back the green curtain to reveal the all-powerful wizard is in reality a little man pulling the levers? Once caught, the little man says "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain." That's a great paraphrase for both Mayor Brayton and City Manager Kutney's comments to the Times.
The community uproar is simply "a lot of sour grapes" - City Manager Kutney
"We're all good." - Mayor Brayton
I guess Brooksvillians are unusually sensitive about their government making tiny mistakes like selling water towers.
And Mayor Brayton said they "just need to be darn sure that it doesn't happen again." What more can people want? Why all the fuss? Put the curtain back please and move along.
2. Bad leadership is dangerous when exposed
Mr. Kutney apparently doesn't subscribe to "the buck stops here." Instead of owning his responsibility for selling a public utility and putting an entire city at serious risk, he blamed a staff member. I know a lot of city employees. They're good people. They love their city and work hard at their jobs despite being way underpaid. So it saddens me to think of them reading the Times article and realizing their boss is willing to throw them under the bus to save his own ego. Chris Anderson wasn't "dismissed" by Mr. Kutney. He resigned. And not because of the water tower debacle. Mr. Anderson was well known to be Mr. Kutney's golden boy. So if Kutney will flip on him, the staff has to know he'll flip on any of them. No one is safe.
Mayor Brayton's position is more confusing. I've known him more than half my life and have paid mild attention to his career since he started in government 40 or so years ago. Until recently, I certainly believed he always wanted to do the right thing. He's a veteran and a family man who is lucky to have grandkids and great grandkids around. If you see him in public, it's usually with a grandkid in tow. So why is he willing to risk his entire career in government to protect bad governance? Why ruin your reputation for a City Manager who isn't invested in the community and whose days are obviously numbered?
3. Bad mistakes are not as dangerous as bad coverup attempts
The accidental sale of the water tower reads like a story from the Onion. But this Times article is anything but funny. By downplaying what happened and lying about a staff member, our city leadership has proven a willingness to risk lawsuits and worse to preserve their power. People this obsessed with power cannot be trusted and anyone who cares about our city should be deeply concerned. It's not just City employees that need to worry.
4. Good people will win in the end
I've spoken to dozens of people about the water tower sale this week, and none of them would have given back the tower the way the Reads did. Some people said they'd have demanded marketing rights to the tower, others said they'd have sold it back for a hearty profit, and some said they'd have kept it. Pretty much everyone said their negotiations would have included a demand for Kutney's dismissal.
The Reads are the heroes of this story and everyone owes them an immense debt of gratitude. Maybe they should be awarded Great Brooksvillian for 2022. A case can darn sure be made.
In the meantime, City taxpayers continue to foot the bill for these mistakes and most likely, the lawsuits to come as a result of them. Here's hoping the good people winning happens sooner than later.
A City of Brooksville voter created this countdown that's been circulating for a few weeks:
It shows the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the new City Council takes office in December 2022.
Here's hoping it doesn't take that long.
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