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Tales from the Mark Side: Manatee County Your character is showing


After our historic election last year at the local level, I was hoping to focus all my attention on the dangers we face as Americans instead of narrowing it down to the dangers we face as Manatee County citizens.

But alas, the word “hope” has become a four-letter word designed only to leave one disappointed in today’s political world – and yes, in today’s Republican Party, which remains infected with RINO’s – and worse – inflated egos with personal ambition prevailing over the needs of the people.

One would assume that after this last election where the citizens of Manatee County filled every seat on the dais with so-called “real” Conservatives, we could simply breathe a sigh of relief and concentrate on other things, assuming our great county was in good hands.

So, in turn, I assumed we could look beyond Manatee County and address important issues relating to our great state and nation. But we all know what happens when we assume. Someone ends up making an ass out of u and me.

It certainly appears to me that is what this so-called Conservative board of county commissioners is doing.

I have long sat through the political circus that is our county board. I have sat through countless hours of embarrassing, self-serving, nonsensical arguments that almost always turn personal as egos get bruised and vendettas override public service.

It’s not uncommon in local politics. It’s not uncommon for a local politician to suddenly feel important even when they’re not. What is uncommon is the ability to fix it though we try every election cycle.

So by all appearances, the circus remains in Manatee County and all we’ve done over the past several years is hire a new set of clowns.

Not all, but enough to ensure the majority rule keeps the spotlight on Manatee County’s center ring. Unfortunately, it’s not the greatest show on earth when it comes to local leadership.

Sadly, the nature of local politics hasn’t changed at all. Residents, constituents and voting Conservatives aren’t blind to the continued Good Old Boy network within Manatee County where powerful friends continue to scratch the backs of elected officials.

What was special about the 2022 election cycle is the way Republicans unified, but if we continue on this same path just because you happen to be friends with one of these power players within the county without acknowledging their failings will create a divide within the Conservative movement that will be difficult to overcome.

Why is it so hard for people – and especially political organizations – to admit they were wrong? It’s a character flaw if you ask me and no single person or organization that claims to represent the Conservative Movement should suffer these types of liberal style character flaws.

This board couldn’t even decide on a chairperson, ousting Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge for a hot minute before Commissioner Amanda Ballard “had a change of heart.”

How and why did that all of a sudden happen? We’ll get to what I see as the biggest problem in a minute.

So Van Ostenbridge tried to use our money to collect voter data and then brags about how much money he has raised using this data for his reelection campaign.

Don’t let money go to your head Mr. Chair. If you are banking – pardon the pun – on money raised and what your closest allies are telling you to win reelection, you’ll be shocked when the voters pull that proverbial chair out from under you.

Read the larger room. I’m not saying KVO has been a complete failure. I’m saying his actions have steered him off course at times and the shade around his term is growing like it was a tree in the setting sun.

He’s tried to strong arm other municipalities into bending the knee to his personal kingdom and is in the middle of a bougainvillea style coup against Manatee County Clerk of Court Angela Colonneso.

Officials like Van Ostenbridge and former administrator Scott Hopes may view Colonneso as a thorn in their side because she actually does her job according to the letter of the law, but the people know Colonneso is a true internal watchdog so needed by our fellow citizens.

I saw an unofficial poll from the Manatee County Republican Liberty Caucus – a true political think tank if you ask me – and would love to see an official one done as far as who voters trust more: Colonneso or Van Ostenbridge. The unofficial one wasn’t even close last I saw and while that is just a snapshot, it’s one Van Ostenbridge should at least think about.

It appears Colonneso – at the local level – is the only one capable  and willing to keep the wolves at bay even when said wolves dress as sheep in order to win our votes.

I only know KVO in terms of a few short conversations over the years, friendly greetings and through his own actions, which speak louder than any in depth conversation we could have had.

I have no doubt we’ll have conversations down the road as election season draws near and I certainly have questions.

Especially his recent comments regarding the veterans housing project being sponsored by perhaps the most legitimate charitable organization in America’s history: Tunnel 2 Towers.

Of all the projects to be concerned about in Manatee County, to include the over budget 44th Avenue expansion, reducing wetland buffers, the rapid growth in east Manatee County, the continued blind eye over the illegal development of the Medieval Fairgrounds and the strongarm approach to build a parking garage in Holmes Beach, it was Veterans Village that gave KVO pause.

So much so, that KVO felt the need to pause the project, which only required a donation of land; hold a town hall and make comments such as having concerns that a small development geared strictly for veterans would create a drug use and homeless crisis within his precious district.

This is the same democratic tactic that targets Catholics as extremists and parents as domestic terrorists. To single out veterans as some kind of concern is a throwback to the 1980s where Hollywood created an illusion that every Vietnam veteran was a loose cannon capable of shooting up a community at any given minute.

It’s disgusting. It’s unforgivable. It’s unwarranted. It’s insulting.

My biggest problem with the board of commissioners over the years is the lack of transparency, accountability and the way certain items magically get resolved between certain commissioners before it gets to the public eye.

These items magically appear on the consent agenda or a vote is somehow solidified without public conversation.

You would be hard pressed to convince me these old shady backdoor tactics are not being used by this board of commissioners – or at least enough of them to ensure these types of dark political deals are still being practiced.

And this brings me to Commissioner Ballard’s sudden change of heart about KVO being reinstated as chair. My only concern about Ballard from the get go was whether she was strong enough to stand on her own Conservative values or if she would be sucked into the political power cliques.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in Ballard but her sudden change of heart makes me wonder just what kind of political pressure was thrust upon her and how much of it was internal and/or external.

To be honest, after this last election I thought my job would be easy. I thought we would move forward unified and rallied around the greater good.

Instead, what I see is a crack in the Republican infrastructure that will soon divide Republican leadership and elected officials further away from the Conservative constituents.

They can’t be blind to what the rest of us are seeing, and yet, I see wagons being circled around some of these problematic officials simply because of friendship or because the Republican king makers have already decided on “their” candidates and will stubbornly not move off that failing platform.

I know who the real Conservatives are in this community whether it’s an elected official or local activist. I see some of these Conservatives bowing to the pressure of political party politics instead of constituent politics.

It’s a bad move. You know it and we know it.

We went this direction to rid Manatee County of democrat-style politics and yet, have we succeeded?

I’m not so sure anymore.

It’s an easy fix, trust me and our officials need to understand a few simple truths. Conservatives are a forgiving people if you can turn it around and govern for the people.

We are not a forgiving people to those who continue to play politics for their own false sense of power and personal ambition. We see right through that crap.

As an elected official, you are not royalty. You are an employee. If the Republican Party doesn’t start acting on behalf of the people in the same manner, then we’ll see a new growth spurt in the Independent Party as we’ve seen in recent years.

I already know many local Conservatives who are done with the Republican Party and that trend will only continue unless our local leadership rallies around actual Conservatives.

It makes sense, but at the end of the day, it’s not a good thing. The Republican Party needs to do the right thing when it comes to candidates and rally its membership back into the movement.

And yes, that sometimes admitting when you were wrong and telling the constituents that a mistake was made and that the Party is moving away from any given candidate or elected official who does not meet the standards of our great Conservative Movement.

I’ll probably lose some Republican readers over this. I may even lose a friend or two, but as I said from the beginning: I’m not in this for myself, nor am I in this to be a talking head for any one party or individual.

I am in this for the Conservative Movement, to make America and Manatee County great again. If you are a believer in making America great again, how then can you hesitate when it comes to our own hometown and not do the right thing?

I still hold out hope for this board, but some changes need to be made in the coming primary if things continue as they are. I swore to stay out of Republican primaries, but I’m not sure that will be possible unless I see a drastic change of course.

Stay vigilant my friends. We have more work to do. Stay informed and keep sharing our truth.

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