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A Times Editorial

CD promoting county reflects poorly on EDC

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 28, 2000

CD-ROM is a commonly used computer term that is an acronym for Compact Disc-Read Only Memory.

On Tuesday, it would have been understandable if the Citrus County commissioners had decided to change the abbreviation for the CD they were watching to Remarkably Outrageous Mistake.

Leaders of the Economic Development Council went before the County Commission Tuesday, as they do every few months, seeking more of the money the county collects from residents who purchase occupational licenses. This time it was $31,675. As part of its appeal, EDC executive director Rick Jensen played a CD-ROM, projecting it on the wall for all to see, that his agency plans to use as a marketing tool.

But any pride Jensen must have felt when he began the presentation was short-lived. The high-tech visual aid turned out to be an embarrassment because even a casual observer could see that it misrepresented Citrus County on several levels.

The most glaring bungle was that the seven-minute CD-ROM, intended to showcase all things Citrus, contained film footage of the Hernando County Courthouse in Brooksville, complete with its statue of a Confederate soldier. It is unfortunate, but understandable, that the production company that put together the CD might confuse the courthouses. One 19th-century brick courthouse must look like another to a firm that is located in West Palm Beach.

However, we are less understanding of why Jensen and the EDC board members did not pick up on the mistakes earlier, and insist they be corrected.

The whole CD-ROM project, which cost about $8,000, has been jinxed. Some of the first CDs were cut in an outline of Citrus County, but the EDC had to send them back because the irregular shape made an awful whirring sound when inserted into the computer. Then the EDC rejected another batch of CDs because they were not properly packaged. Having overcome those logistical obstacles, the EDC now must deal with the truth-stretching content of the CD.

The courthouse gaffe, although the most ridiculous, was not the only one. The CD also implied the county was served by an airport large enough to accommodate a Boeing 727 and that the coastline has a sizable sugar-sand beach, and the narrator refers to the 7-year-old Ted Williams baseball museum as "historic." And, in a more serious affront, the video shows a diver petting an endangered West Indian manatee in Kings Bay.

Using a CD-ROM to help market the county to prospective businesses was not a bad idea. But the project has been plagued by such poor execution and oversight that it is cost prohibitive. In fact, this misstep may be the most costly of all to the EDC, because it apparently was enough to persuade Commissioner Brad Thorpe to reconsider his longtime support of the public-private partnership. Thorpe's change in thinking could reverse the slim 3-2 margin of support on the commission and contribute to the dissolution of the struggling economic development group.

The EDC board of directors should instruct Jensen to not hand out any more of the faulty CDs unless he includes a disclaimer that explains the misrepresentations.

And the County Commission, which granted the EDC an additional $31,675 despite the latest controversy, should insist on previewing any other promotional materials before they are distributed.

If Jensen and his board of directors can't provide that oversight, the commission must.

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