Council Member Erhard: “Boycott every establishment that has anything to do with Brooksville Main Street”

City of Brooksville City Council member, Betty Erhard, in a now-removed Facebook message, has called to her Facebook “friends” for a boycott of Brooksville businesses that have shown support for revitalizing and growing their city. She is targeting some 109 or so businesses that have expressed support for Brooksville Main Street, the only existing organized effort to revitalize the city’s economic vitality and protect its historical charm. 

Here’s the full text of her note:

“Boycott every establishment that has anything to do with BMS. Only way is to deprive them of money. Greedy, selfish, self centered people.”

There’s only one way to interpret this action. She has stepped out of her role and responsibility to publicly support the wellbeing of her constituents by taking a personal action, clearly stated, with the intention of destroying their livelihoods.

This act is beyond disconcerting. There is concern for those who could be impacted by this clearly irrational attempt to affect the ability of those who support their families through these businesses, but also for her personally.

What could cause a sitting City Council member, a person elected to represent the interests of the businesses and residents of her city, to take such a reckless position against them?

What an awful message it sends to our many businesses which are already suffering from the devastation caused by Covid-19. Businesses which are struggling to stay alive and doing everything they can to keep patrons coming into their shops and restaurants.

And what a terrible message it sends to anyone thinking about relocating a business or family here to learn that a city council member is trying to derail her own community’s attempts to bring about sustainable economic success and growth. Whether you are a potential new business or new resident considering an investment here, how would hearing that make you think about continuing to be so? 

Clearly this is not good. But assuming she’s not going to stop these careless statements and frontal assaults on the community’s attempts to come together in its quest for an economically successful and sustainable future, what can we do?

One thing is this: Start questioning the baseless allegations of dishonesty that a handful of people seem obsessed with and who suggest the BMS program has not been effective. It has been, is, and will continue to be with the community’s involvement and support. Have the same folks who suggest those involved with BMS are less than honest and have nefarious intentions, be specific. Any suggestions of inappropriate or illegal activities should be supported by proof, not unsubstantiated inuendo that could be considered slanderous. There have never been any valid indications of impropriety or dishonesty among the members of Brooksville Main Street or the Brooksville Vision Foundation. With the exception of two professional employees, those involved with these organizations are unpaid and have only the best interests of the City in their hearts, as do the dozens of volunteers who spend hundreds of unpaid hours on behalf of their city. 

Yes, the naysayers must have their say. It is their constitutional right. But they have, through their repetitive baseless attacks, taken control of the City Council’s agenda and thus its ability to carry out an efficient meeting and accomplish the city’s business in an efficient and cost-effective manner. 

(Update: Kudos for Mayor Bernardini! At last night’s City Council meeting, he let it be known at the outset that baseless personal attacks against Council members or other individuals would not be tolerated. That’s good leadership and a good start at returning civility and respect to City Council meetings.)

Another thing that can be done is this: Let’s not forget that Betty Erhard is not the majority. The City Council is comprised of five people each with the same responsibility to do what’s best for the city. For the most part, there have been the beginnings of stability and positive support for the business community from at least three members: Mayor Joe Bernardini, Vice Mayor Pat Brayton and Former Mayor, Bill Kemerer. To a lesser degree, but still with hope, we should include Council Member Robert Battista who, I believe, appreciates the city’s need for economic sustainability and growth but just has different thoughts about what that means and how to get there.

It would be a very good thing at this particular time, therefore, for this majority to ask City Manager Mark Kutney and City Attorney Becky Vos to draft a resolution that expresses the City’s continuing commitment to support all efforts, both public and private, to bring economic growth and sustainability to the city by any means the City Council finds appropriate, meaningful, and cost-effective. It is critically important that the City Council as a body not be colored by the thoughtless action of one of its members. And it would be a simple but extremely significant message that would let anyone concerned know clearly where the Council stands regarding the City’s future.

Stay tuned …

The Voice of Main Street