Smith vs. Tobia – Same At It Ever Was.

Stop us if you have heard this one before:

At the Brevard County Commission meeting, Commissioners Smith and Tobia went at each other.

It’s a recurring theme with these two.

Brevard County commissioners gave preliminary support Tuesday to using up to $1 million a year in hotel tax money for projects to benefit the Indian River Lagoon.

But the unanimous vote came after a confrontation between Commissioners Curt Smith and John Tobia that resulted in County Commission Chair Rita Pritchett calling a five-minute timeout, mid-debate.

Smith, who sponsored the measure related to the tourist tax use, is up for re-election this year, and is facing fellow Republican Trudie Infantini, a former county commissioner, in an Aug. 28 Republican primary for his District 4 seat. Tobia is backing Infantini.

Tobia implied during the debate that Smith has flip-flopped on his stance about using money from the 5 percent Tourist Development Tax on hotel rooms and other short-term rentals for lagoon projects. Tobia read a section of a Nov. 9 FLORIDA TODAY article about that issue, related to Smith’s concerns at the time to state legislation sponsored by Florida Rep. Randy Fine to broaden the use of the tourist tax for lagoon projects. Tobia said Smith now is “changing his opinion 180 degrees” from his previous statement.

Smith said he didn’t take his earlier remarks back, but told Tobia that he was tired of what he felt were “personal attacks that I continue to get” from Tobia.

Asking why Smith had changed his mind is a “personal attack?”

Smith has changed his opinion on the issue of the use of tourism money on the lagoon.

Back in November Tobia made a motion to support Florida Representative Randy Fine’s initiative to change the wording in the Florida Statutes to allow money from tourism dollars to go to the lagoon. (The issue is that while tourism dollars can be spent on lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water in the state, the statute does not authorize the spending of tourism dollars on “lagoons” or “estuaries.” Fine essentially wants to add those two terms to the statute, and it makes sense to do so.)

Tobia’s motion died on the vine as no one else on the County Commission would second it.

It is somewhat important to note that a legislative resolution is not binding. It is not law, it is not a code that can be enforced or even a rule that people or the Commission have to follow. It is simply a notice that the Commission supports the idea.

Smith was one of the Commissioners who did not offer a second in support of the resolution to change the language but had supported spending $14.1 million dollars on other “tourism” projects. After the November 8 meeting, Smith said:

It’s easy to point fingers, but the very best sewer systems will have failures in heavy rain events,” Smith said. “This never matters to the point-fingers crowd. For (Tobia), it’s all about creating turmoil and grandstanding.”

As the lagoon is one of the reasons people come to Brevard and is part of the economic tourist engine that helps drive the county, we support the language changed and thought the Commission’s lack of support was shortsighted. If the citizens are paying sales tax to clean up the lagoon as it is a priority to the region, shouldn’t we seek to add as much money to that effort as possible?

After disagreeing on the resolution in November, this week Smith was for spending up to $1 million dollars a year on the lagoon from the tourism tax.

It’s a definite change of positions and Tobia called Smith on it.

Smith’s reaction was not a good one:

“I apologize to all of you for him,” Smith said, in addressing the audience at the County Commission meeting.

“You’re not Perry Mason. I’m not a criminal. And I’m not on trial,” Smith told Tobia.

“Let’s try not to get personal, but to stay on topic,” Pritchett said.

Tobia then asked Smith why the ordinance classified the lagoon as “a second-tier priority” for the tourist tax money, behind beach renourishment.

“I’m not going to answer that,” Smith said. “You know, I’m not going to indulge in these personal attacks. It’s beneath me, and if one of the commissioners wants to be childish, he can be childish by himself.”

[Commission Chair Rita] Pritchett then stopped the debate, saying: “I think we’re going to take a five-minute break here.”

(We wondered why Smith did not apologize to the crowd for his actions.)

The fact of the matter is that this was a real opportunity for Smith to come off looking great. He could have said “I reconsidered my opinion after discussing it with others.” He could have said “I heard from my constituents who wanted me to support this, and so I am.” He could have said “no one should be locked into a position that can not be challenged or changed as need be.”

Answers such as that would have shown a maturity and a willingness to listen to other points of view and change one’s opinion. Instead, Smith’s response was akin to “mommy, that mean man is picking on me again!”

There is no doubt in our minds that Tobia is poking at Smith at every chance he gets. While it can be said that Tobia does it because of his support of Trudie Infantini, Tobia was taking shots at Smith long before Infantini she said was going to run against Smith. Smith’s reactions, including Smith’s disastrous proposal of an unConstitutional “civility / censure ordinance” (which was later pulled from the agenda,) show the very real thin skinned nature of Smith.

We won’t say that Smith’s thin skin is a cause not to vote for him, but we certainly do question his lack of commitment to the very “Tea Party” (limited taxation, commitment to the Constitutions, etc.,) platform he ran upon in 2014.

We disagree with Tobia on many issues but if politics and the Brevard County Commission are the “kitchen,” Tobia has shown that he can withstand the heat. Smith cannot.

We just hope that someone has the popcorn concession when these two go at it. The sales tax alone from the sale of that popcorn could repair roads, hire security guards for schools, fix the lagoon, put people on Mars……

One Response to “Smith vs. Tobia – Same At It Ever Was.”

  1. Hometown says:

    Call me an ignorant voter but when I voted for the 5% tourist tax I assumed that a large portion of it (if not all of it) would be used to pay back residents to offset the costs to local communities that increased transient visitors (touriststs) create for our local communities. Instead it appears that the funds are basically just a slush fund controlled by the hoteliers and businesses for their benefit. While I agree that some of the money used does benefit all county residents I think it would have been better if the funds raised were just thrown into the county budget without restrictions to allow our elected officials full control of the spending. The regulations and establishment of the Tourist Development Council stacked with hotel owners and developers was a bad idea. I never would have voted for this tax if I’d have known that a large portion of the revenue would be so heavily influenced by the TDC and used to provide free advertising for the tourism industry. These funds should be rolled into the county coffers and spent as needed by Elected officials for the benefit of all residents, not just projects that benefit the tourism industry directly. That said, I support any Commissioner who votes to use these funds to improve our lagoon and improve our county for the benefit of all. Personally I would have liked to see them spend a lot more of this money on the lagoon but it’s a step in the right direction.