Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Voting in the Dark

Early voting in Sarasota County begins August 8, and Vote By Mail ballots are already out in the community. Yet with important public offices to be decided on August 18, where are our local media?

Mike Moran l, Alan Maio, r.

District 1 incumbent Mike Moran is running against Mike Hutchinson in the Republican Primary.

Constituents might recall a few things:

Mr. Moran  
  • Voted for the gerrymander ("redistricting") that moved black voters out of District 1 -- and white voters in;
  • Voted to approve Benderson's super-sized Siesta Promenade;
  • Voted to to allow hotels like the one Gary Kompothecras plans on Siesta Key;
  • Voted in 2017 for James Gabbert's dump at the Celery Fields.
Moran also
  • Claimed he didn't know about the rotting pipes that spilled a billion gallons of wastewater at the Bee Ridge Plant in District 1;
  • Instigated and voted for the amendment that makes it virtually impossible for residents to amend the County Charter;
  • Enjoys the backing of Carlos Beruff, Randy Benderson, Jim Gabbert, Pat Neal and other major developers.
If Moran prefers to avoid journalists who'd ask hard questions about his record, that's politics.

But wait - none of our media are asking those questions: No debates, forums, or Q & A's have been held or scheduled for the District 1 race. Is a sitting County Commissioner being excused from the public spotlight?

These are important races. We've seen Mike Moran in action. Not an endorsement, but where's the media on his primary opponent Mike Hutchinson?

In the absence of real journalism from the Herald Tribune, WWSB-Ch. 7, SRQ and the Observer Group, it's on us. Either we do our own research, or we're voting in the developer-sanctioned dark.

Friday, July 17, 2020

UPDATE: Who's funding your candidate?

Voters will make key decisions on August 18, when Republican voters in Sarasota cast ballots to decide which Republican candidate they want to run in the November 3 election for the County Commission seats in District 1 (northeast Sarasota) and District 5 (North Port/Englewood).

Among other factors in choosing, it's good to know who stands behind the candidate, who is funding him or her? No endorsements, but some facts:


This information is very easy to find. Go to this page of the Supervisor of Elections site, click on a candidate's name, and you'll find the reports of each candidate on who gave them money. For example, here's a report from Mike Moran.

Moran's received over $47,000 so far for his 2020 campaign, and the developers have given a substantial share of that:

To compare, click on Mike Hutchinson's list of contributors. He has taken in $6,294.71 so far. He's loaned himself $30,000 to stay in the race.


You can do the same in District 5.

Ron Cutsinger, a former board-appointee on the Planning Commission, has $55,000 so far. His list of contributors starts here. In addition to his own money, he's received backing from a number of builders and developers:

Recently Cutsinger has also received support from the Boone family, whose Venice law firm does a good deal of legal work for developers. Here's part of July 2020's list:

His Republican Primary opponent Christopher Hanks has $17,605. Along with land owners and Realtors show up the Benderson name also appears in his list. In August 2019, the West Villages and related developer contributors show up:

Randy Benderson

And in January 2020, the Benderson family came aboard the Hanks campaign with donations totaling $800:

Chris Hanks January 2020 donors - partial list

You can do the same research for the Democratic candidates, but they're not running in this Republican Primary for the BCC.

The winners of the Republican BCC Primary will face Democrats in the fall: Mark Pienkos in District 1, and Alice White in District 5.

Broader perspective

A broader look at developer influence over the last four years would include these contributors to our County Commissioners:

As well as these developer-donors to our School Board members:

One more thing about the upcoming elections . . .

The "Primary" for Sheriff and School Board is not in fact a Primary, but a final election. More about that here.

It's very important to vote on Aug. 18 - to do that, you need to register by July 20, which is coming right up. All the information you need to learn how to register, to change party affiliation, voting districts and more can be found at the nonpartisan Citizens for District Power site.

Dark Money has no face

Citizens United meets
Main Street

Several years ago, Sarasota advocate Cathy Antunes began probing the sources and destinations of large sums of money coming into Sarasota and Manatee elections.

Tracing so much money through faceless PACs has taken her some time.

Now she's sharing this information in an easy-to-read Flipbook format. The text is clear and has plenty of illustrative diagrams. People bandy about the term "corruption." but Cathy knows how to spell it out.

Citizens United meets Main Street

Please read "Citizens United meets Main Street," share, and vote wisely.

Thank you,

Citizens for District Power



Friday, July 10, 2020

Are you in?

It might come as news that Sarasota County's August 18 "Primary" is not a Primary. For both Sheriff and School Board, it's the entire election. Voting is open to all registered voters. Learn why here.

To vote on Aug. 18, you must be registered with the Supervisor of Elections. If you've not already done so, the deadline is July 20. Where to begin? Citizens for District Power can help you register, apply to vote by mail, even change party affiliation. It clarifies which districts are where, who's running in each, and why candidates unburdened by piles of developer cash have for once a real chance. Do have a look.

On the other hand, for the Board of County Commissioners, August 18 is a real Primary, for Republican voters in districts 1 & 5 only. A bit of an update on who's backing whom in these races here.

Single member districts can be a game changer - if enough of us are in the game.

Citizens for District Power

Monday, June 29, 2020

What this man said about our neighbors is true of Florida

Thoughts shared by a man who has seen what is happening to the tourism industry in the Caribbean. Perhaps his thinking has some relevance for Florida:

The Caribbean: Thoughts on the Way Forward post COVID

By Hugh Magbie

"The discussion about whether to open or not should be easy. Don’t put anyone’s life at risk for [money]. That one is simple. Tourism has been the easy way out for the Caribbean. Slap-up some hotels, a dock, an airport and they will come. A little money trickles down to the “ natives, but most of tourism’s dollars go to the rich mainland owned corporations. Tourism has become the prime source of GDP for most islands.

The pandemic has changed all of that, even if tourism comes back to “normal”, many businesses have closed forever.

The massive layoffs mean increased homelessness, hunger, and crime. All at the same time we’re fighting a pandemic.

Most islands will not have contingency plans for such a catastrophe.

Think of St Thomas, six mega cruise ships a day, a day! The economy of St Thomas is dependent on those ships coming.

That’s not gonna happen for some time. No matter how hopeful and confident the cruise executives are, the fact remains the pandemic is raging in the US.

St Croix gets one or two ships a week but it has a lot of small businesses and an oil refinery, a more diverse economy. It also has an excellent internet infrastructure.

Now is the time for a comprehensive regional plan one encompassing as many islands that would wish to join.

Our mission?

To create a sustainable, growing economy that is diverse in its components, utilizing governmental grants assistance in transforming our islands into technologically advanced, locally invented and developed and sold to the world.

We could be world leaders in renewable energy, being blessed with the everlasting trade winds and abundant sunlight. Windmills and solar would decentralize our electrical systems, now reliant on Inefficient, expensive white elephants. They should also be user-owned electric co-ops.

I have a patent in wireless technology, it’s in every phone. It did not take millions to develop, it took brainpower, the collaboration of five minds, providing sweat equity.

Apple, developed in a garage, Microsoft, in a house, Facebook, in a dorm, and none of us have a degree.

There are thousands of engineers and scientists in the Caribbean and many more thousands working abroad.

There are industries that we need to develop; biotech, gasification plants to convert our garbage into natural gas, finding pharmaceuticals from our natural plants and seaweed, cannabis agriculture, food sustainability and eradicating hunger.

We must also serve the people, setting up some sort of Democratic socialism that provides the basic needs for all.

The engine that makes all of this run is education. Quality, high-quality education dedicated to the potential of each student is vital. Just a few thoughts."


For more thinking in this line, see this brief talk by Kate Raworth:

Monday, June 8, 2020

Kelly Kirschner: Anti-Racism

This year marks the 10th anniversary since the local immigrant-integration, nonprofit UnidosNow was formed. I am proud to be one of the founding members, against the backdrop of local, state and national issues negatively impacting immigrant communities.

On a local level, from 2009 to 2012, a period during which I served as a Sarasota city commissioner and mayor, the bright light of disparate treatment of minorities by law enforcement focused on the city’s Police Department.

Similar to recorded killings of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, the only reason that this came to the public’s attention and outrage was due to the Herald-Tribune’s publication of a video recording of a SPD officer allowing an inebriated immigrant, Juan Perez, to climb out of a squad car and fall six feet onto his head, his hands handcuffed behind his back.

The officer then proceeded to kick the man and stand on him. It ultimately led to the firing of the officer, the resignation of the chief of police, the creation of a city police complaint committee and an independent police advisory panel. In spite of a history of other complaints of excessive use of force against the offending officer, he remained and advanced within the force prior to the Perez incident, which ultimately cost the City hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawsuit settlements and legal fees.

Perhaps most disturbing, three years after the incident, a panel of Sarasota residents that included a former and current city commissioner board voted unanimously to reinstate the fired officer, giving him three years of back pay, in spite of the African American chief of police advocating that they ratify the officer’s termination, due to his dangerous disregard of protocol in caring for a handcuffed individual.

I share this story because the frustration and the violence we are seeing in our country today is not just about the individuals who police us; it is really about us and a 400-year history — since African slaves were brought to these shores — of not demanding better, in spite of our insistent belief in American exceptionalism.

Nicole Hannah-Jones
We inherit, whether we like it or not, the legacy of our nation’s forefathers who wrote and signed a “Declaration of Independence” that declared “all men are created equal”, while many of the signers, including the principal author, Thomas Jefferson, owned thousands of African slaves, including their own children. This year’s Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Nikole Hannah-Jones, wrote in her New York Times essay last fall, “Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written. Black Americans have fought to make them true.”

UnidosNow was formed to stand in solidarity with our black community and join the fight to make these ideals true, as we seek to integrate our vibrant immigrant community into the social, economic and civic weave of the American Dream. The fight is not a struggle that our black and LatinX neighbors must wage on their own. Indeed, the truth and reconciliation process must take place within our nation’s white community, for any progress to get us beyond where we are now.

As Dr. Ibram Kendi in his best-selling book, How to be an Anti-Racist, points
Ibram X. Kendi
out: It is not acceptable to simply say, “I am not a racist.” The question for all of us is rather, “How are we being and behaving in an actively anti-racist manner?”

Anyone who has watched the videos from Georgia and Minneapolis is horrified. Many are moved to action, as we witnessed when hundreds of local residents peacefully convened and marched throughout downtown Sarasota, calling for greater police accountability. While this is a start, white residents have the obligation to educate themselves on how to be better allies and active, committed anti-racists.

To better empower conversations and civic activism in that process for white residents and parents, here is a link to resources that will help you become a more engaged anti-racist. As Americans guided by the noble aspirations of our Founding Fathers, it is our obligation to help create a more just and equitable society where all people have a fair chance to be healthy, free and alive.

Kelly Kirschner 

Resources for white parents to raise anti-racist children:

Articles to read:

Videos to watch:

Podcasts to subscribe to:

Books to read:

Films and TV series to watch:
  • 13th (Ava DuVernay) — Netflix
  • American Son (Kenny Leon) — Netflix
  • Black Power Mixtape: 1967-1975 — Available to rent
  • Blindspotting (Carlos López Estrada) — Hulu with Cinemax or available to rent
  • Clemency (Chinonye Chukwu) — Available to rent
  • Dear White People (Justin Simien) — Netflix
  • Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler) — Available to rent
  • I Am Not Your Negro (James Baldwin doc) — Available to rent or on Kanopy
  • If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins) — Hulu
  • Just Mercy (Destin Daniel Cretton) — Available to rent for free in June in the U.S.
  • King In The Wilderness  — HBO
  • See You Yesterday (Stefon Bristol) — Netflix
  • Selma (Ava DuVernay) — Available to rent
  • The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution — Available to rent
  • The Hate U Give (George Tillman Jr.) — Hulu with Cinemax
  • When They See Us (Ava DuVernay) — Netflix

Organizations to follow on social media:

More anti-racism resources to check out: