One of the few certainties in today’s highly charged political environment is that when one side in an argument is losing they will accuse the other side of being racist. My argument does not make sense so obviously my opponent is racist. We find this label often used by Democrats to accuse Republicans of racism. 

True to form, former Manatee Commissioner Benac has labeled the current Chairman of the Manatee Commission a racist. What must the Chairman have done to be labeled a racist? Did he use racially offensive language?

Did he discriminate on the basis of race in hiring practices? Did he wear a white hood and appear in black face at a party?

What Chairman Van Ostenbridge and a majority of the Manatee County Commissioners did was adopt policies that are in place in the City of Bradenton, the City of Sarasota, and Sarasota County. These organizations do not have Commissioner comments as a separate agenda item in their meetings. In prior years, at the conclusion of Manatee County Commission meetings, there was a time for Commissioner comments. This was traditionally used as a time for Commissioners to remind citizens of various community events that would be taking place. It was also used as a time to thank county employees for something special the employee may have done or accomplished.

This time was not to be used for serious issues because such issues are required to be noticed so the public can comment on the matter. Any Commissioner can have an item placed on the regular agenda by making a request.

Commissioner Van Ostenbridge at the dedication of Wilbur Boyd Blvd and C.V. Walton Racquet Center Grand Opening — 5/6/22

Lately, Commissioners Servia and Whitmore have been using the comment period to campaign in their upcoming primary races. They have used the comments section to foment unrest among the county employees. They have also used the comment period to attack the County Administrator. 

Chairman Van Ostenbridge decided the comments period should be suspended during the campaign season to protect the commissioners from charges of using the county platform for a campaign speech. His proposal was supported by a majority of the commission.

Former Commissioner Benac sent an email to the County Attorney and copied a liberal newspaper and then called the action racist. Such an ignorant analogy is equivalent to calling the former Commissioner an abuser of animals.

During Benac’s tenure, the Commission meetings were full of embarrassing personal attacks that made Manatee County the butt of jokes in our region. Commission Chairman Van Ostenbridge has successfully diffused many of the personal attacks that used to be so abundant. It’s too bad that a former commissioner involved in a political campaign would use the racism charge to further her political agenda.

Bob Spencer
Manatee Herald

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