Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Gannett and Herald Tribune Parent merge

CEOs of new Gannett: ‘Pivot’ needed for digital transformation as merger completes

By Nathan Bomey,
HT link

New Media Investment Group and Gannett finalized their merger Tuesday, putting top executives in position to move ahead with plans they believe will transform the new company’s local and national news brands, including USA TODAY, into a reinvented digital media powerhouse.

The merger creates the largest U.S. media company by print circulation and one that will vie for the nation’s biggest online news and information audience.

The new company’s CEOs – Mike Reed, who will lead the overall public entity under the name Gannett Co., and Paul Bascobert, who will lead an operating company called Gannett Media Corp. – told USA TODAY in a joint interview that they have a compelling opportunity to reinvent the business and expand digital revenue. Both said the company will continue to focus on its journalistic mission.

“Our mission is to connect, protect and celebrate our local communities,” Bascobert said. “Great journalism really is the core of that mission. The question really becomes, what’s the sustainable and exciting business model that powers that mission?”

The company faces significant challenges – namely how to counteract the news industry’s severe print revenue decline with new sources of digital dollars.

The more than 250 daily publications that are part of the new Gannett – such as the Detroit Free Press, The Columbus Dispatch, The Arizona Republic and the Austin American-Statesman – and several hundred weekly publications have cultivated online brands in local markets. Now, Gannett needs to find ways to turn those connections into more revenue.

Outlining a strategy

Bascobert outlined a strategy based on lead generation in local markets – similar, he said, to the approach taken by home services site Angie’s List and Yelp, a reviews and directory service.

Need a plumber, for example? A Gannett publication could help you find one and then earn a fee for helping make that connection.

“This is really us beginning this pivot toward more of what I would call a software-based business model” rather than “an advertising-based business model,” said Bascobert, who pursued a similar model while president of XO Group, owner of wedding planning site The Knot.

His vision would represent a significant overhaul. In the first nine months of 2019, more than 51% of the combined company’s revenue came from advertising and marketing services.

But a wholesale reinvention is necessary because of “the collapse of the newspaper advertising model,” which is “the most fundamental business problem facing local news,” said Jim Friedlich, CEO of the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, a nonprofit that promotes local journalism innovation and owns The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The new Gannett, which offers digital marketing services through brands such as ThriveHive, ReachLocal and WordStream, will need to continue down the path of becoming a sophisticated digital marketing provider, Friedlich said.

When local businesses need help reaching potential customers, Gannett’s representatives need to be able to help them. Otherwise, they’ll go to Google, Facebook, other online giants or other service providers.

“Building a new local marketplace business at scale requires a long-term commitment of expertise and financial resources,” Friedlich said in an email. “None of this will be easy,” he added, but if Gannett can generate sizable revenue from local marketers, “it will benefit not only their news properties but the industry as a whole.”

Shedding overlapping costs

In the short term, though, the success of the merger is linked to the company’s plan to shed $275 million to $300 million in overlapping costs on an annual basis within 18 to 24 months. That’s crucial to paying off a $1.8 billion loan from private equity firm Apollo Global Management that New Media used to help finance the acquisition.

Those cost savings will come from a wide variety of areas, including corporate functions, news operations and what Reed called “centralized” services where there is significant duplication.

He said the overall cost savings goal is “very, very reachable,” in part because it’s only 7.5% to 8.5% of the combined company’s total revenue, compared with 10% to 15% in a typical corporate merger.

Concern about further cuts

Journalism advocates fear heavy-handed layoffs in already strapped newsrooms, which provide the content that drives readership, fuels digital ads and attracts paid subscriptions online and in print.

Jeff Gordon, a regional vice president for The NewsGuild, whose region represents journalists at four GateHouse newsrooms, expressed concern last week that the deal would lead to further stress on newsrooms that already have faced budget reductions. GateHouse, the operating division of New Media, ran the company’s publications.

“The obvious concern the Guild has expressed is all the debt incurred in the merger, which creates pressure to drive cash flow and could result in further cuts,” said Gordon, whose region includes Colorado, Illinois and other states in the Midwest and Great Plains.

Reed said he’s confident the company can achieve its cost-savings goals “without deep newsroom cuts.”

Bascobert said the new Gannett is “committed to delivering great quality journalism,” including investigative work and meaningful local reporting.

“Those are the things that people subscribe for, and we believe we deliver that,” he said.

Michael Silberman, senior vice president of strategy at subscription commerce and tech provider Piano, which has counted New Media as a client, said the new Gannett needs to cut unnecessary costs while investing in journalism to boost subscriptions.

In the third quarter, Gannett’s digital subscriptions rose 27% to 607,000 compared with the same period a year earlier. New Media’s subscriptions rose 65% to 217,000 over the same stretch.

“Our fundamental belief is that even in a small community there’s an opportunity to create value in terms of a subscription and get people to pay,” Silberman said in an interview last week before shareholders approved the merger. “In some ways, that’s the basis of the merger.”

As print circulation and advertising continue to decline across the industry, the future of physical newspapers is shrouded in doubt. But Bascobert said “print is a good business today” and generates profits for Gannett.

Could the company, which will be based in McLean, Virginia, cut unprofitable print days at some of its publications, as has been done elsewhere in the industry?

“We constantly look at different versions of frequency of delivery or alternative delivery methods, but at this point, it’s a good product,” Bascobert said. “There’s nothing we’re looking at right now to change any of those variables.”

Sarah Taddeo of the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat & Chronicle contributed to this story.

The flow of developer wealth and power in Sarasota: A powerpoint

The above is taken from this powerpoint by a citizen. The slide depicts contributions from James Gabbert to candidates in one county commission race.

The statement by James Schebel that accompanies the slides is here.

The complete powerpoint is here.  A pdf version is here.

When the maker of these slides attempted to present them to the Board of County Commission at a redistricting hearing, he was shut down.

Lucas: FDEP Violation suspected in Gabbert WTF proposal process

Date: 11/19/19
To: County Commissioners / Planning Department / Florida Department of Environmental Services / Sarasota Press Outlets

cc: County Staff Contact: Donna LaDue / The Sarasota County Board of Zoning Appeals Members: Mr. Arthur, Mr. Malatesta, Mr. Mast, Mr. Piatchuk, Mr. Powell, Mr. Radauskas, Mr. Taylor, Sarasota Community Groups on Facebook, Anyone who is interested in how criminal development in Sarasota continues to be

From: Adrien Lucas

Re: Zoning Appeal 19-155651 ZZ: a request by TST Ventures LLC

Last night I attended the Zoning Appeal meeting for TST Ventures LLC and spoke to the Zoning Appeal board asking them to uphold Zoning Administrator Donna Thompson’s recommendations regarding Mr. Gabbert’s appeal to Ms. Thompson’s interpretation that a modification of the stormwater pond is a substantial modification to the binding concept plan and the approved Special Exception will need to be amended. 

While I did not go to the meeting expecting Mr. Gabbert to announce he would not build his WTF or to  miraculously realize that his open air Waste Transfer Facility:

  • will introduce daily trips of uncountable diesel semis and trucks driving in and out of his facility; or that Gabbert’s own fleet, will create an incredible carbon footprint in a county where air quality is already documented as less than stellar for healthy breathing; 
  • Or that he would even acknowledge that his WTF is located at the headwaters of the Phillippi Creek and the particulates from construction material such as asbestos, lead paint, fiberglass, and who knows what else cancer causing agents will be filtered through waterway channels from his WTF, down Phillippi Creek, into Robert’s Way (where Gabbert lives) and into the struggling Gulf of Mexico.
I could go on about environmental concerns but I have learned from the get go that almost no one in the Sarasota County Commission (past and present board members) and almost no one in the Planning Board Commission or Zoning Appeal Commission give a rat’s bottom about environmental science that affects the welfare and safety of our Sarasota community. Attorney Merrill, Mr. Gabbert, Bo Medred and some of the Board members act like they know all about stormwater ponds, filtering systems, etc. and yet most of them do not have degrees in these types of sciences. But if they did, would our Gulf of Mexico be entering into a Failing Level of Service as far as being safe water to swim or eat in? But I digress, afterall, these elected officials and board members are truely sage men of development industry, they do know better, don’t they?

So what I did expect at last night’s Zoning Appeal meeting was the acknowledgement that our county and Mr. Gabbert have broken rules time and time again to suit developments that essentially would not exist if county and state protocol had been followed.

Remember Restaurant Depot? I do. County Attorney Alan Roddy (and this is on county video and in a court transcript), when it was clear that the county was breaking the Sarasota County Charter (our county constitution) by not requiring Restaurant Depot to disclose the owners of the LLC’s listed to buy county owned Celery Field Quad Properties, Alan Roddy responded “we do this all the time, we have done this before.” He openly admitted before a full house of witnesses that the county breaks the Sarasota Charter “All of the time.” Fortunately, the sale didn’t occur with Restaurant Depot, but the only reason the sale did not go through was because there were many constituents who were watching and refusing to let the Charter be broken.

Last night at the Zoning Appeal meeting I presented irrefutable information that Mr. Gabbert, his engineer Weber Engineering had lied on a document from submitted to the FDEP.

At the Board of Zoning Appeals last evening, the final vote sided with William W. Merrill III, James Gabbert, Bo Medred, and Jon Mast against County Zoning Administrator Donna Thompson. Ms.Thompson had ruled that Mr. Gabbert needed to get the County Commission's approval for two changes to the site design of his WTF. One of seven realtors, builders and architects on the BZA, Jon Mast is CEO of the Manatee Sarasota Building Industry Association. He deftly turned the Board around. At first the vote was 4-3 for Ms. Thompson's ruling, and against Gabbert. Mast then asked to "amend" the motion, and amended it so far as to fully approve Mr. Gabbert's appeal. Gabbert's new stormwater plan was unclear, without dimensions or even a structural drawings. The Board partly based its changed vote on answers to technical stormwater questions answered not by an independent expert or County stormwater engineer, but by Merrill III and Gabbert himself. So it is with all our Boards - the applicant is the authority. What a departure from Sarasota's enlightened past.

Board Member Mast kept insisting that “We do these types of exceptions all the time.” The problem is this isn’t just any exception. This is an open air WTF and Mr. Gabbert always had the intention of being the Waste King off of Palmer Boulevard, with not only his WTF but also his failed attempt to build a recycling dump. So Mr. Mast is wrong, entirely wrong, because the exception pushed Mr. Gabbert to change his build out plans for his WTF because by losing out on the Quad parcel, it was impossible for trucks to enter and leave his WTF without that extra acreage. With that he has had to modifiy and move his stormwater plans which I find to be completely incompatable with the area, especially now that we know the Quad parcels are going to be preserved.

But hey, “We do this all the time” and that is what is wrong with Sarasota government and development. [Ed.'s note: See for example this illustration of Mr. Gabbert's campaign "donations" to the Board.]

Below is the statement I read to the Zoning Appeal Board Members. Included are pictures of what I handed to them. 

I will be filing an investigation complaint with the Florida Department of Environmental Services but I have learned to expect nothing when it comes to ethics in Florida pertaining to honesty, due diligence and following protocol.

Date: 11/18/19

To: The Sarasota County Board of Zoning Appeals Members: Mr. Arthur, Mr. Malatesta, Mr. Mast, Mr. Piatchuk, Mr. Powell, Mr. Radauskas, Mr. Taylor
cc: County Staff Contact: Donna LaDue / County Commissioners / Planning Department / Sarasota Press Outlets

From: Adrien Lucas

Re: Zoning Appeal 19-155651 ZZ: a request by TST Ventures LLC to appeal a Zoning Administrator's interpretation letter dated August 28, 2019, interpreting that the modification of the stormwater pond is a substantial modification to the binding concept plan and the approved Special Exception will need to be amended. The property is zoned Industrial, Light Manufacturing and Warehousing (ILW) and is located at 6150 Palmer Boulevard and 1099 Porter Road, Sarasota (Parcel ID No. 0237050001 and 0237120001). Willam W. Merrill, Esquire, Agent

Documents Attached:
9/19/19 Drainage Calculations cover page submitted to SRQ County from Weber Engineering 
5/9/16 TST Ventures Letter of Interest - 10.3 acres on SW corner of Palmer Blvd. & Apex Rd.
9/2/16 Self Certification form submitted to FDEP from Weber Engineering

The Weber Engineering packet submitted to the county on September 9, 2019 titled “Drainage Calculations” for 6150 Palmer Boulevard included a letter dated September 16, 2016 from the FDEP regarding “Self Certification for a Stormwater Management System...” and Mr. Weber submitted the certification specifically and only for the privately purchased 4.27 acres that Mr. Gabbert is developing his WTF on.

Lawrence Weber certified through the Department’s Enterprise Self-Service Application portal that the TST Ventures project was designed by the above named Florida registered professional to meet the following requirements and lists:

Item No. 5 - The project is not part of a larger common plan, development, or sale; 
But that was not a truthful submission. On May 9, 2016 TST Ventures submitted a letter of interest to the Sarasota Board of County Commissioners to buy 10.3 acres of county owned surplus land on the SW corner of Palmer & Apex Road in order to allow a Construction and Demolition debris recycling facility to serve the residents of Sarasota County.

Weber Engineering "certification"
This means that the submitted project to the FDEP was presented falsely and was part of a larger common plan, development, or sale as and was submitted, four months before the September 16, 2016 letter from the FDEP. 

TST  Ventures (Gabbert) letter of interest May 9, 2016
I am asking the Board of Zoning appeals to uphold Zoning Administrator Donna Thompson’s recommendations regarding today’s zoning appeal for TST Ventures and let this go before the Board of County Commission for a decision. Any modification not specifically listed would require an amendment to the Concept Plan approved by the County Commission.

The State of Florida and Sarasota county development protocol exist for a reason. We, the people, should be able to trust that due diligence is applied to all development projects of such importance; especially a waste transfer facility (and Mr. Gabbert’s denied potential dump)  being on top of the headwaters of the Phillippi Creek.

Time and time again, TST Ventures has put the cart in front of the horse regarding building out his WTF. What else exists with the current build out to the WTF that is being rushed?
We will be conducting a forensic file search on everything submitted for the WTF with county documents.

How can we trust that the FDEP form submitted by Weber Engineering is correct regarding: 
That Item No. 6. The project does not:

  1. Cause adverse water quantity or flooding impacts to receiving water and adjacent lands; 
  2. Cause adverse impacts to existing surface water storage and conveyance capabilities;
  3. Cause a violation of state water quality standards; or
  4. Cause an adverse impact to the maintenance of surface and ground water levels or surface water flows 

We cannot trust the above to be true without substantial background materials that are really unknowns. 

With super storms staying not 24 hours but up to 72 hours hovering over smaller areas of land, it is awful to think of what awaits the untested Celery Field stormwater retention facility and the WTF being built on this unsuitable parcel for an open air construction waste transfer facility.

I am neither an attorney nor an engineer but I can assure you, the long trail of documents submitted to the County for Mr. Gabbert’s WTF provide little insight on numerous unanswered questions, especially when it comes to Mr. Gabbert’s assurance that his WTF will be able to keep the people and waters of Sarasota County healthy. 


Adrien Lucas

Monday, November 18, 2019

Statement at Board of Zoning Appeals regarding Mr. Gabbert's change to his Special Exception

Note: After all presentations were given, the Board of Zoning Appeals first voted 4-3 to support the County Zoning Administrator's ruling that James Gabbert was seeking a major modification of his WTF. Then, led by Jon Mast, CEO of the Manatee/Sarasota Building Industry Association, it reversed that vote. Mast, purporting to "amend" Justin Powell's original motion, turned it into a double approval for Gabbert, and undermined the Zoning Administrator's interpretation of our Zoning Code.

Board of Zoning Appeals at Gabbert Appeal 11.18.19

It’s not often that Sarasota’s regulatory boards interact with the general public. If the County were to require one or two seats on each Board to represent residents, and duly reported on Board actions to inform interested residents, that might help close the gap between the self-interest of business-as-usual and the larger shared values of the general public.

Some historical context -- I’ll keep it short. In 1980, Sarasota County was first in the state of Florida to address future development with a planning document curiously named “Apoxsee.” It served as a sort of rudimentary Comp Plan.

In 1996, about 30 far-sighted residents from a variety of professions - architecture, law, engineering, development and construction among them - began to formulate a balanced set of principles to guide future development practices. They were known as the Multi-Stakeholders Group, or MSG, and their collaboration - which was not always collegial - led to the Comprehensive Plan approved by the county several years later.

With the great Depression of 2008 came pressure to grant a kind of emergency welfare to developers. The delicate balance between the community and development interests went sideways, and remains tilted heavily today toward the developers.

Revisions in the UDC as well as in Comp Plan Amendments have contributed to this move away from consideration for the community. Certain codes are less constrained, and residents experience the impacts new developments daily - in their nostrils, in their waterways, and on their roads.

In addition to requiring public representatives on your Board, I would ask that you each support a change to the UDC: Demand that traffic studies for the site development review process be required. How could the unleashing of 100 large trucks a day at this location on Palmer Blvd. not have been addressed? The repercussions of this programmed ignorance will be felt every day by those who live and work in the Palmer, Bell, Cattlemen and Apex area. Please press for this change in the 2020 Amendment cycle.

County zoning’s fundamental purpose is to “protect a community’s health, safety and welfare.” Binding site plan rules exist for a reason. I support the Zoning Administrator’s interpretation in this matter, and ask that you help Sarasota return to its tradition of community vision in long-range planning.

Thank you.

Tom Matrullo

Sunday, November 17, 2019

"An offense to all voters" - Lobeck on Sarasota County redistricting

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Sarasota Herald Tribune

Not just lines on a map

"As long as he’s a citizen of Sarasota County he’s entitled to submit a map" to redraw the County Commission election districts. — County Commissioner Nancy Detert

Well, Robert Waechter is not just any citizen. And his map, to be voted on by the commission Tuesday, is not just any map.

Mr. Waechter is a convicted criminal, found guilty of fraud for stealing the identity of a Republican opposing the election of Alan Maio to the county commission, to discredit her in the primary by donating in her name to Democrats.

And that was only one incident, linked to a political machine of development interests who hand-pick candidates for local offices and bankroll them to election. I call them the Cabal.

The Cabal was appalled when their big-money domination of commission elections became threatened by 60% voter approval of singlemember districts, despite the Cabal’s expensive and deceptive opposition. Now it takes one-fifth as much money for a candidate to get out a message and neighborhoods are more empowered.

So no surprise when the commission decided to redistrict early, before reliable numbers from the 2020 census, and conduct next year’s election for three commission seats under a new map.

Bob Waechter’s map was submitted under the name of Adam Smith, to hide its source. When Herald Tribune reporter Zac Anderson tracked email addresses to pin the map on Waechter, he at first denied that the map was his.

The Waechter map does two things.

First, it protects incumbent County Commissioner Mike Moran from Democratic voters (who now form a majority in his district) by carving African American neighborhoods out of District 1 and denying them a vote until 2022 (before which I predict the commission will seek to repeal single-member districts).

The second impact is an offense to all voters, including Republicans like me. The Waechter map would carve out of Moran’s district every likely opponent to his reelection, in both parties.

This includes former Sarasota Mayor Fredd Atkins, who has declared, as well as New College professor Frank Alcock, who has expressed a strong interest, and potential candidate Hagen Brody, a Sarasota City Commissioner. All are Democrats.

Also, the Waechter map, in redrawing Moran’s district, curiously jags to the north in the eastern county to carve out Myakka Valley Ranches. Thathappens to be the home of Frank DiCicco, who gave Moran a run for his big money in the 2016 Republican primary despite entering the race at the last minute.

This same thing happens in the district of Nancy Detert. At present, she faces a challenge from outgoing North Port Mayor Chris Hanks. The Waechter map carves North Port out into a separate district, and puts Detert into the Venice district, which is up for election but has no incumbent due to Commissioner Charles Hines being term-limited.

That way, Detert is free of Hanks’ challenge and the Cabal gets a shot at electing Hanks if they choose to anoint him.

On Oct. 30, Commissioners Moran, Detert and Maio prevailed on a 3-2 vote to put the Waechter map before a public hearing on Tuesday, together with an alternative by a consultant which merely moves a large Republican precinct into District 1.

While any redistricting should await the 2020 census, the fact that the Waechter map is even being considered is scandalous. If it is approved it will be a scandal beyond compare.

Dan Lobeck is a Sarasota attorney and president of Control Growth Now.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Coming right up

The WTF wall
Monday, Nov 18: Jim Gabbert's Waste Transfer Facility (WTF), approved by Charles Hines, Al Maio, Christine Robinson, Caroline Mason and Paul Caragiulo in 2015, has a nice wall around it. However, there's a glitch. Mr. Gabbert is seeking to move his stormwater partly offsite and underground. But since he has a binding site plan, this change amounts to asking for a substantial modification -- a Special Exception to his 2015 Special Exception. County Zoning says any substantial modification has to go back to the Board. Mr. Gabbert's attorney this modification is not substantial. See Rachel Hackney's free SNL story about Monday's Board of Zoning Appeals public hearing. This should be interesting: 6 pm at 1660 Ringling Blvd.

Bob Waechter
Tuesday, Nov. 19: The Board of Sarasota County Commissioners once again takes up redistricting. With time running short, it has to decide either to select a Bob Waechter map or another, or drop the entire process, which now is opposed by three civic groups. The Board has received advice from concerned citizens (video below), and now from Gerald Webster, Ph.D. Mr. Webster draws on a lifetime of experience with voter litigation to advise the Board not to pursue redistricting before the 2020 Census. The Board begins deliberating at 9 a.m.

For now, Hurrah!: The Board's Nov. 6 decision to preserve the Quad parcels near the Celery Fields for passive recreation came as a genuine surprise to citizens who had spent nearly three years addressing the issue with the Board. No better organization than Sarasota Audubon to protect the bird sanctuary. But those citizens, while hopeful, are wondering whether anything about the way the Board thinks, plans, listens and decides has really changed: was it a genuinely civic decision, or more like politics as usual? Media and, for now, euphoria, are here.

Expert in Voting Litigation to Board: Don't Redistrict Now

The two final redistricting maps - source: Scgov.net

Spitzer Map 2-1.A

Waechter Map 4-1A

November 12, 2019

TO: Sarasota County Commissioners, Mr. Charles D.Hines, Chair; Mr. Michael A. Moran, Vice Chair; Ms. Nancy C. Detert; Mr. Christian Ziegler; Mr. Alan Maio;

Cc: County Administrator, Mr. John R. Lewis; County Attorney, Mr. Frederick J. Elbrecht With three attachments

FROM: Dr. Gerald R. Webster, Professor Emeritus, Nokomis

RE: Current Effort to Redistrict the Sarasota County Commission Districts

I have followed the debate over whether the Sarasota County Commission electoral districts should be redistricted for many months. Though recently retired, I acted as a consultant and expert witness in voting system litigation for nearly thirty years. I have served as an expert witness in litigation in fourteen states including Florida. I have been hired by the Department of Justice, state governments, local governments, the Legal Defense Fund, NAACP, and Native American Rights Fund, among many others. A large share of these consultations have involved redistricting at the congressional, state legislative, and local government levels

I have degrees in political science and geography with my academic specialty being political geography with an emphasis in electoral geography and redistricting. The majority of my academic career was spent at the University of Alabama and the University of Wyoming. My Vita is attached and may also be accessed at [this link].

Based on my expertise and experience, I would like to provide additional information for the Commission to consider prior to making a decision on redistricting in advance of the 2020 Census. I hope that the County Commission will reconsider and wait to redistrict when the required data are available in early 2021. As I pointed out in a letter to the editor in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on October 5, 2019 (copy attached), there are serious data problems associated with the current effort to redistrict Sarasota's County Commission districts and, therefore, with the maps being considered. Although I recently returned to Nokomis for the winter, I will be out of state on November 19th and will therefore be unable to attend the public hearing.

The Commission's intent to equalize the relative populations in each single-member district due to potential changes since the 2010 census is understandable. But the use of population estimates can be highly problematic at lower geographic scales. Thus, Stanley Smith and Scott Cody of BEBR found that the Mean Absolute Percent Error (MAPE) for estimates at the subcounty level was 9.2%, “more than three times larger than the MAPE for counties” (“An Evaluation of Population Estimates in Florida: April 1, 2010,” Special Population Reports, Number 8, June 2011). As a result, the accuracy of block level estimates of total population as well as breakdowns by race and ethnicity are highly suspect with likely high margins of error.

The use of population estimates does not allow for accurately evaluating the success of the redistricting effort in terms of the equal population criterion (see attached, “Reflections on Current Criteria to Evaluate Redistricting Plans,” by G.R. Webster, 2013, at page 5 for how the equal population criterion is evaluated). Simply said, the use of estimated population data makes it impossible to know if any existing district population contrasts have been corrected, or if they have been made worse than they may be currently. This uncertainty puts the County in a difficult position legally should any challenges be made to the new districts. It is very possible that additional analysis of the new districts on the basis of traditional redistricting criteria will find them flawed and invalid. In addition, there are negative impacts from a legal challenge to the newly approved districts in terms of time and money as well as citizen satisfaction with their local government. In my experience, such litigation is tremendously expensive due to lawyer and expert witness fees, and such cases can drag on for months if not years. The use of the 2020 Census data will provide a much stronger, defensible and acceptable foundation for any redistricting effort by the County Commission.

Clearly, the major problem in attempting to redistrict in 2019 is the lack of current accurate population data at the Census block level, the smallest geographic units in the Census hierarchy which are commonly used to create equally populated districts. The decennial census enumeration collects population data at this level for the country as a whole and will do so again in 2020. The other sources of data such as BEBR and the ACS do not collect data at the Census block level. More importantly, these data are based on estimates, frequently with high margins of error. With respect to the currently proposed redistricting options, Mr. Doty in a September 29, 2019 article in the Herald-Tribune notes that he has no way of calculating the margin of error for the data used but “at the block level it’s going to be high.” I fully agree.

It is true that the results of the decennial census become less accurate as gradual population changes occur throughout a decade. Because the results of the Census are by far the best data for the purposes of redistricting, governmental entities and the courts accept this reality. The best data for redistricting at present are the results from the 2010 Census. These data will remain the most reliable numbers until the 2020 enumeration is completed.

If the county adopts a redistricting plan based on population estimates, it will be impossible to definitely state that the district populations meet the goals of the equal population criterion from a legal perspective. This puts the county in a difficult position legally, and opens up the possibility that additional analysis of the new districts on the basis of other traditional redistricting criteria will find them flawed. For example, without accurate data on race and ethnicity it will be impossible to judge whether the influence of the minority communities has been enhanced or eroded (see Webster 2013, at pages 5-7).

I hope the Sarasota County Commission will reconsider its efforts to redistrict in 2019 and wait until the required data are available in 2021.


Webster, G.R. 2019. “Flawed Population Data Won’t Yield Equal Districts,” Letter to the Editor, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 5 October.

Webster, G.R. 2013. “Reflections on Current Criteria to Evaluate Redistricting Plans,Political Geography 32: 3-14.

Webster, G.R. 2017. Curriculum Vitae.

Existing Districta and first round of alternative maps

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Lucas: We won - but Gabbert's WTF needs to be watched

It took a Celery Village

but the Last Stand at Celery Hill has been won!

On November 6, 2019, the Sarasota County Commission finally heard the public outcry to “Save Our Celery Fields” and voted 5-0 to place three of the four parcels in a conservation easement. The Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast and Sarasota Audubon will work with the Sarasota County Administrator and Planning to reforest the southeast parcel and do something for the northeast parcel with the retention pond. The southwest parcel will also come under a conservation easement. The northwest parcel with the fire station was left out of the vote. We will continue to monitor that parcel as 4.1 acres there are not part of the conservation easement, and could be rezoned in the future.

I want to thank everyone who helped in defeating past and present Commissioners from selling the Quad properties for development. This was a non-partisan effort that was supported by local, state, national and global efforts. People can continue to enjoy the Celery Fields without further introduction of development in the Quad Parcels surrounding the park. What a joy! 

However, with this exciting win for the Celery Fields, there is something we need to continue to monitor. The “WTF” Waste Transfer Facility, adjacent to the Quad properties, is in its early stages of being built by TST Ventures. Sadly, Mr. Gabbert decided to build his dump despite heartfelt community efforts to persuade him to find an area better suited for his business. 

Mr. Gabbert and his attorney William W. Merrill III have applied for a Zoning Appeal with Sarasota County. Screen shots pertaining to this appeal may be seen below. 

In a nutshell, if you are interested, there is a Public Hearing beginning at 6:00 pm on Monday, November 18 to considering Zoning Variances from the Sarasota County Zoning Regulations. It appears that Mr. Gabbert wishes to alter the Special Exception plan: He is now asking to move the location of a proposed stormwater retention pond to a property he owns outside the boundary of the WTF. The new proposed tank would not only change the site plan, but it would be underground, making it likely more difficult to monitor. 

Sarasota County Zoning staff have denied Mr. Gabbert’s zoning modifications, hence, the appeal. We will be attending this meeting and following its outcome.

(and many Sarasota scientists who have much more knowledge than I do) believe that with Gabbert’s dump, there will be known construction particulates that contain poisons such as lead paint, asbestos and who knows what else that will be sprayed down in the open air dump. This water will leech into the Celery Fields Stormwater Retention Pond. This drainage ultimately ends up in Sarasota Bay.

We will keep you abreast of the situation but if you want to attend a meeting, please join us at 6 pm Nov. 18 at 1660 Ringling Boulevard, Commission Chambers.

Bunches of Celery Hugs,
Adrien Lucas

Date: Mon. November 18, 2019

Time: 6:00 p.m.

Location: 1660 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota, FL

Parking may be found behind the County building in the parking lot.

Discussion Section:

Public hearing to consider Appeal 19-155651 ZZ, a request by TST Ventures LLC to appeal a Zoning Administrator’s interpretation letter dated 8/28/19, interpreting that the
modification of the stormwater pond is a substantial modification to the binding concept plan and the approved Special Exception will need to be amended. The property is zoned Industrial, Light Manufacturing and Warehousing (ILW) and is located at 6150 Palmer Boulevard and 1099 Porter
Road, Sarasota (Parcel ID No. 0237050001 and 0237120001). William W. Merrill, Esquire,
Email the Sarasota County Commissioners
It is polite to be polite! It isn't easy being a public figure, and they finally heard us! You may or may not want to thank Sarasota County Commissioners Charles Hines, Al Maio, Nancy Detert, Mike Moran and Christian Ziegler.
Just click the button to the right and the link will take you straight to the Commissioners email box.
Useful Links, Supporting Material & Some Helluva Good Press from the Past Week!
ABC Channel 7 by Rick Adams | November 6, 2019

Filmed by Daniel Perales, produced by Adrien Lucas

Herald Tribune by Anna Bryson | November 2, 2019

ABC Channel 7 by Taylor Torregano | November 1, 2019 

ABC Channel 7 by Taylor Torregano | November 1, 2019 

Herald Tribune by Carrie Seidman | Octobert 31, 2019

Citizen's for Sarasota County Blog by Tom Matrullo | November 3, 2019

Sarasota News Leaser by Rachel Brown Hackney |October 24, 2019

Fresh Start for the Celery Fields, a real time blog holding any and all things related to the Celery Fields and Sarasota County government. Great place to learn what we are up against. This is a useful site for appropriate cut and paste sentences for writing why you oppose the sale of the Quads.

Comment on Critical Area Plan for the Quad Parcels at the Celery Fields, a breakdown on the proposed county staff Celery Field Quad CAP analysis to Sarasota planner Mr. Kirk.

A video of Fresh Start's presentation to the Board of Sarasota County Commissioners on Sept. 12, 2018 that apparently fell on deaf ears. Click here to View.
Sent by Adrien Lucas,
A Sarasota p.t. private citizen moving back to SRQ f.t. to run for
County Commissioner and small business owner of
who simply is overjoyed that we all Saved Our Celery Fields!