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We're surviving, but officials are ready to give up

Ocala, FL - September 26, 2011

Published in the Ocala Star-Banner on Monday, September 26, 2011 at 12:29 p.m.

If I had a nickel for every time I asked somebody how they are doing and was told, (sigh) "Well, I've got a job," the recession would be over in the Rogers household. But that, it seems, is where we are as a community. Just surviving. It's understandable. Three years of double-digit unemployment. Shuttered storefronts and foreclosed front yards everywhere we look. Our "leaders" constantly reminding us how bad times are, even though they're pulling down pretty nice paychecks for part-time jobs themselves.

Yes, the boom is gone from our one-time boomtown, but does it mean we have to lose our swagger and our sense, too? Not all has to be lost ... yet.

Take the School Board. It has embraced a four-day school week for next year. Now we all know the school district has a propensity for "finding" millions of dollars at the 11th budgetary hour to avert such nonsense, but that the School Board would even contemplate such a Third World policy — let alone adopt it — is not leadership, it's lunacy.

And while our school system has stopped buying new textbooks and technology, others around Florida and the nation are seizing the opportunity to replace books with tablets or netbooks, thereby killing two birds with one budgetary expenditure and advancing education into the 21st century. But not Marion County. Nooooooo. Instead of striving to lead the state in raising student performance, once the School Board's proud mantra, it disingenuously strives to lead the state in the race to the bottom.

Then we have the County Commission. Silver Springs, Mother Nature's magnificent crown jewel that has been a magnet to people and prosperity since the Timicuans roamed these parts, can at long last be had for preservation and public use. But it would cost a few bucks. So instead of giving the people cheap and easy access to one of the world's most magnificent aquatic wonders — while no doubt stimulating economic activity in the process — our commissioners wring their hands in fear that they will be accused of taking an irreplaceable public property out of the hands of a failing private enterprise. Socialists, by god! What a bunch of misopportunists. Give County Commission Chairman Stan McClain props for pushing the idea hard. It's a sure winner. Too bad he's standing alone.

Then we have Munroe Regional Medical Center. The hospital trustees and the administration would love to have a tax to keep our model community hospital what it is, the best around. The political class and, sigh, the tea partiers want to look at "other options," including handing this public asset of immeasurable value over to privateers.

Seriously? There are 80,000 people in our community with no health insurance and Munroe provides them with a place where they can get the best of care, regardless of their ability to pay. You think they will get that kind of charity and compassion from a private outfit? If you do, you're dreaming.

No wonder we have lost our swag, as my 17-year-old son likes to call it. Instead of recognizing our greatest community assets and fighting to not only preserve but enhance them, our leadership can only talk about how to dismantle them. If that happens, we won't even be talking about surviving anymore.