Thursday, March 31, 2016

Candidate Forum at CONA: Monday April 11 at 7 pm

Monday, April 11, 2016 at 7 p.m.

- candidate forum -

State House of Representatives
district 72 and district 73

On Monday, April 11, CONA will hold a forum for the candidates campaigning for two seats among our state house of representatives in Tallahassee.

Candidates Edward Elliot James III and Alexandra Cynthia Miller, who are seeking the seat for district 72, and James T. Golden, Joe Gruters, and Steve Vernon, who are seeking the seat for district 73, have been invited to attend.

Using atypical question formats and timing, CONA makes an effort to provide its members and the public with a more thorough understanding of the positions of each candidate than usually achieved at candidate forums. Dan Lobeck will be the moderator of this forum.

Join CONA as we hold the first of our candidate forums for the state and local 2016 elections. Because we and many of our members take vacations in the summer, we are starting early to reach the greatest number of voters. There is much to cover before the primary in August. Our monthly meetings for April, May, and June will be devoted to forums. We video and post our meetings to our site, so our forums will be available through the election in November.

See for more about CONA. 
social 6:30 p.m. - forum 7:00 p.m.
at the Sarasota Garden Club

neighbors helping neighbors since 1961

A Tale of Two Cities

[eds. note: Thanks to Bill Z. for sharing and pairing these growth pieces - are the two cities at two different points of the same growth cycle?]


Packing downtown with more people

A roundabout in downtown Sarasota

By Zach Murdock

SARASOTA - It's no surprise immense growth is coming to downtown Sarasota, but the comprehensive picture of new hotel and residential development entails staggering increases headed to the heart of the city in coming years.

City economic and planning leaders detailed planned development for the Downtown Sarasota Condo Association on Tuesday night, amid several questions from downtown residents about just how much growth the city can stomach.

For starters, hotel projects under construction or approved by the city will add 1,000 more rooms to the nearly 2,000 already in the downtown area, said Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County.

That will mean the city must generate about 125,000 additional visitors each year to sustain its current occupancy levels, she estimates.

"Before anybody complains about traffic, let me share with you that my hotel occupancy on weekends in July is the same as it is in March," Haley said. "But I don't have a lot of traffic complaints in July, because our seasonal residents aren't here."

But the number of residential units, either rentals or condominiums, will increase by even more, said Norm Gollub, downtown economic development coordinator for the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce.

About 6,500 residents live in about 4,100 downtown apartments and condos now, he said. More than a dozen additional projects on the way will add another roughly 3,200 residential units to the area, possibly bringing as many as 5,700 new residents downtown, he estimated.

“Much of this is the result of pent-up demand from the recession," Gollub said. "I don't honestly know how much. Once some of these projects are complete, market demand will drive the other projects, but we'll see.”

A U.S. Census Bureau study released last week revealed the Sarasota metropolitan area is the 11th-fastest growing metro area in the country, with Sarasota and Manatee counties adding more than 20,000 people between mid-2014 and 2015.

Last year, the city of Sarasota processed a record number of building permits — about 8,400 permits with a total construction value of about $350 million, said Gretchen Schneider, the city's general manager of planning and development. Many of those are single-family home renovations that owners are now able to tackle as the economy rebounds, and the city is already on track to break that record number of permits again this year, she said.

Despite the surge, Sarasota is only just now approaching its pre-downturn population of about 55,000 residents.

"We're still not back to where we were in '07," Schneider said. "Yes, it's increasing, but it's not going to go gangbusters."

All that growth has caused its share of issue and consternation among local residents, who most often gripe about traffic congestion and the changing skyline. But the city and Sarasota County are working through those issues, with plans to add more than a dozen roundabouts throughout downtown to eliminate lengthy traffic signals and re-instituting suspended impact fees to try to fund improvements and slow the rate of growth.

"Sarasota is becoming an urbanized community with the rules put in place 20 years ago that allowed this," Gollub said. "What's being done now is the struggle of keeping the community vibrant and alive, not overwhelming. ... It's not the Sarasota of our youth, but with our help, our guidance and our input, we can make it the Sarasota that's sustainable."


Another Condo Bust Looms in Miami

Developers, seeing sharp drop in sales, inventory surge, take steps to avoid a ‘bloodbath’

Condo developers are now cutting back on projects as sales slow. 


March 29, 2016 11:43 a.m. ET

Miami is facing a condo bust—again.

Developers have started canceling projects, slashing prices and offering incentives such as private-jet access to spur sales, an ominous echo of the housing crash that pounded South Florida especially hard.

Easy financing and rising prices prompted developers to build about 21,000 condos in the downtown Miami area from 2004 to 2008. Many of those units sat empty for years.

Developers say this time they have insulated themselves by requiring buyers to put down 50% deposits by the time buildings break ground and by canceling projects instead of moving forward as the market slows.


Foreclosure Firms Reinvent Themselves for Better Times

Still, it may not be easy for some to sidestep the damage. In the fourth quarter of 2015, the number of Miami Beach condo transactions declined nearly 20% from a year earlier, while inventory jumped by nearly a third, according to a report from appraisal firm Miller Samuel Inc. The median sales price slipped 6.6%, according to the report.

“The condo market has peaked,” said Neisen Kasdin, a real-estate development lawyer at Akerman LLP in Miami. “Sales velocity has slowed down considerably.”

Many of the forces buffeting the Miami market are also hitting luxury markets in New York, Southern California, Australia and London. A strong U.S. dollar and weakening local currencies, dropping oil prices and global economic turbulence have crimped the buying power of foreign investors.

At the same time, stock-market turbulence has made wealthy locals hesitant to undertake big purchases. Luxury-home prices in 10 global cities analyzed by broker Knight Frank LLP are expected to increase by 1.7% this year, down from 3% growth in 2015.

Carlos Rosso, president of condominium development at Related Group, Miami’s largest condo developer, said he sells about 20 units a week in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area, versus about 100 a week last year. In response, the company priced its new Auberge development, a 60-story project in downtown Miami, at $600 a square foot, compared with the $850 a square foot it might have asked a couple of years ago.

If Related and its partners hadn’t decided to lower prices, they probably would have had to wait until the next cycle to start construction, Mr. Rosso said. The project launched two months ago and Related has sold about 70 units out of 350 so far.

“It’s a marathon and it’s not a 100-meter chase,” he said. “This is the part of the marathon where we are running a little bit slower.”

Other Miami developers have put on hold or canceled more than half a dozen projects planned earlier in the cycle, from the Ion East Edgewater, a 35-story tower planned by a local Florida development firm, to Krystal Tower, a downtown tower planned by a Brazilian developer, according to consulting firm Integra Realty Resources Miami. Overall, the pipeline of units in active projects in Miami has shriveled by 42%, according to a report released a month ago by Integra.

At the Aurora, a new 61-unit building off the Miami waterfront, the developer is offering buyers a free membership to JetSmarter, a service that allows members to use shared private jets for free.

Tim Lobanov, managing director of Verzasca Group, which is developing the building, said the perk has a retail value of about $12,000 and is part of the project’s pitch to appeal to New Yorkers. JetSmarter offers flights several times a week from New York to southern Florida.

The south Florida condo market is especially vulnerable to swings in the global economy because developers rely heavily on foreign buying, particularly South Americans, Russians, Europeans and Canadians.

Foreign investors have pulled back as the value of their currencies has dropped versus the dollar. Brazilians, for example, have seen the value of their currency against the dollar slip nearly 42% since 2014, while Argentines have seen their purchasing power in the U.S. decline more than 40%, according to Integra Realty Resources.

Miami developers said they are seeing increased demand from New Yorkers and Chinese buyers looking to buy second homes, but that is unlikely to replace the sharp drop in demand from South Americans.

“The depth of the Chinese market, or the European or Canadian market, is not enough to make up for the South American buyer,” said Anthony Graziano, senior managing director at Integra.

Construction in downtown Miami in November. As the condo market slows, developers are canceling projects and requiring bigger deposits when buildings break ground. PHOTO: JOE SKIPPER/REUTERS

‘I don’t see this as the bloodbath that we had last go around at all.’—Gil Dezer

While people across the industry acknowledge the market is slowing, they say low debt levels and a slowdown in new projects will prevent the massive oversupply they saw during the last bust.

“I don’t see this as the bloodbath that we had last go around at all,” said Gil Dezer, president of Dezer Development, builder of high-end Miami condos such as the Residences by Armani Casa, which has seen sales volume plunge to six a month from 20.

Overall, about 1,200 condo units in Miami were delivered last year, down from the peak of 10,000 units in 2008, according to Integra. But with more than 7,300 units under construction, inventory is expected to increase.

Most Miami developers have protected themselves by taking a page from the South American markets. Many now require buyers to pay a 50% deposit on the total cost of their units by the time the project breaks ground. Developers don’t break ground until the project is 80% sold, which means the deposits are enough to cover a significant portion of the construction costs. During the last cycle, by contrast, developers required only 20% deposits and allowed buyers to flip their units while they were still in contract.

Related and a few other developers have since loosened their deposit requirements to 30% from 50% to spur more deals. Mr. Rosso said Related does that only when it already has secured a construction loan and doesn’t need the additional deposits to cover building costs because the building is 80% sold.

Still, Mr. Rosso said the company doesn’t anticipate breaking ground on many new projects in Miami in the next couple of years and instead will be focusing on projects in places like Argentina and Mexico.

“A big part of the cycle is understanding when it’s time to launch new jobs and when it’s time to sell what you have,” he said.

Write to Laura Kusisto at

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Friday, March 25, 2016

Jeff LaHurd: With rampant development, Sarasota's charm is gone

via the Herald Tribune

Published: Thursday, March 24, 2016 at 1:02 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 24, 2016 at 1:02 p.m.
Sarasota has always been about growth and development. They are the threads that run throughout our history, extending from the Scot Colony, which arrived in 1885, expecting to find a town, to the construction of the high-rise buildings being shoehorned throughout the community. Today, though, it is rampant.
There was a hiatus after the real-estate crash of 1926 that continued through the Great Depression and World War II. But that was an unintentional aberration.
In May 1955, Professor Ellis Freeman, who had been vacationing in Sarasota since the 1930s and who built the Four Seasons Apartments on Ben Franklin Drive, wrote of the beauty and atmosphere of the area: “The town had the tone and charm of a fishing village ... Artists and writers and professors like myself loved it for the complete absence of resort commercialism. It was what one hoped to find on Cape Cod and never did.”
Too bad the Sarasota he described did not take a page out of the handbook that Boca Grande planner's used. Better yet, an entire chapter: The one titled, “When Is Enough Enough?” That beautiful community to the south did not sell out; it did not build itself into extinction.
Instead, we embrace wholesale development on a scale certain to erase the very qualities that made Sarasota so singularly beautiful, relaxed and appealing to tourists and residents.
Look at an aerial photograph of the Sarasota core of 1955 and compare it with a contemporary shot. You do not have to be a misty-eyed sentimentalist to understand how much was sacrificed.
The lovely aesthetic that characterized yesteryear is continually razed in favor of a mind-set that believes that more is better. Despite some political resistance, in the end Sarasota never met a developer or a project that it did not embrace wholeheartedly.
It is worse than ever, and there seems to be no end in sight. Adjacent to already clogged streets, more hotels, apartments and condominiums, housing developments and shopping centers are planned. For motorists already angry and frustrated at the interminable delays, it is akin to stuffing 20 pounds of potatoes into a 10-pound sack.
Yesterday's charm has devolved into today's congestion.
During the post-World War II boom of the mid-'50s, local author Mary Freeman warned that Sarasota might turn into “an imitation Miami.” She offered hopefully, “But we can still take things in hand ... but the citizens must make a more intelligent and louder noise than the speculator. Otherwise he'll destroy our unique assets ...”
And we have raised our voices. When U.S. 41 was cut through Luke Wood Park in the mid-'50s, writer Betty Burkett spoke for many when she called it “A deed so ugly that it will remain like a welt across the minds of our people for decades to come.” It made no difference.
And it mattered not at all when there was public outcry against the removal of the Memorial Oak Trees beginning in 1955 — it was in the name of progress, we were told. Same with the years of struggle to save the John Ringling Towers and the Karl Bickel House in the late 1990s. Oftentimes citizens railed against the demolition of a cherished part of their past and to no avail. We even voted to save the Lido Casino — it was razed.
Perhaps the Jack Cartlidge sculpture outside City Hall explains it best. It's called “Nobody's listening.”
I read in the Herald-Tribune recently that, in spite of all the new construction, some of the millennials are having a difficult time finding affordable housing and are leaving Sarasota.
I empathize with them, but for me and my generation of Baby Boomers, we don't have to worry about leaving Sarasota. It has left us.
Jeff LaHurd is a Sarasota resident, historian and author.

Comment by Bill Z:

Those of us who grew up here, or have been here for a long time, know exactly what Jeff is talking about. Bit by bit, development nibbled, then chomped away at those things that gave Sarasota its sleepy charm. Florida boosterism continued its incessant message to "come on down", and, sure enough, they came. For a long time, the numbers were not too alarming, and development proceeded fairly slowly and in small bites. Soon, though, the rumble of earthscrapers, bulldozers, and the like was a constant hum as roads were widened, new roads were built, and more and more houses grew. It became very profitable to grow houses instead of food, so agricultural uses were pushed farther and farther out, which meant to the east. In the "old days", folks had chickens in their back special CLUCK ordinances needed.

As development and its costs, in loss of environment and in money, continued apace, voices were, indeed raised in calls for better plans, for control, for better rules of the game. For a long time, these voices were actually listened to, and bad proposals were often turned down. It did not take too long, though, for those who wanted free rein to do what they wanted, to figure out that the easiest solution to the getting rid of pesky limitations would be simply to elect those who made the final decisions...the city and county commissioners. They realized that all it took was a lot of money to get enough publicity out for the candidates they wanted, and against the candidates they did not want, and, voila, a docile board of commissioners! Before they learned how to play this game very skillfully, we actually had some commissioners who had the long-term interests of the entire county at heart...Jon Thaxton comes to mind immediately. After Jon was termed out several years ago, he applied to be appointed to the Planning Commission...and was denied a seat! Jono Miller, one of the top environmentalists here, ran for County Commission and was targeted by development interests in an exceedingly vicious advertising campaign...he was defeated. Lourdes Ramirez, another leading neighborhood advocate and an expert in Sarasota's land use issues, ran for County Commission and was not only targeted in another vicious advertising campaign, but Bob Waechter, a development activist, actually committed a felony identity theft thing in order to discredit her with voters. Think about it: given the experiences of those who oppose rampant, unchecked development in recent elections, would you want to subject yourself to the same thing?

There is one thing, though: citizens can propose charter amendments, get 13,000 petitions, and get them on the ballot... it is the only thing that cannot be controlled by the FOD (Forces Of Darkness). They can mount advertising campaigns against them, as they did when Citizens for Sensible Growth proposed its amendments, but the amendments passed overwhelmingly, because the voters understood what was at stake.... Even county commissioners cannot overrule the charter!

Any ideas for amendments??

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Whole Foods Land Grab set for Trial

Trial set on Whole Foods wetlands dispute

Published: Wednesday, March 23, 2016 at 7:32 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 23, 2016 at 7:32 p.m.
A Sarasota County judge has set a summer trial date for a challenge to a development proposal to destroy a protected wetland off University Parkway so that a Whole Foods Market can be built on the site.
Circuit Judge Rochelle Curley will hear the case during a two-day trial set for the week of Aug. 22. Curley approved the date at a brief hearing Wednesday in which defense attorneys requested the case be expedited.

The lawsuit against Sarasota County was filed last month by ManaSota-88 and other environmental activists.

Friday, March 18, 2016

News Leader: New Impact Fees put Sarasota third among comparable counties

Adopting new impact fees at the full justifiable level would put Sarasota County in third place on a list with eight comparable counties

From the News Leader, a subscription-based online publication. Charts and images are on the site.

New single-family housing fees for range of services expected to increase expense of a 2,000-square-foot home by $1,400
Clancy J. Mullen. News Leader photo
Adding up all of the current impact fees for services except those for roads and schools makes Sarasota County’s total second-highest on a list showing eight comparison counties, with only Collier charging more, the Sarasota County Commission has learned.
However, if road and school fees are added in for each of the counties, the current fees put Sarasota County fourth-highest on the list, behind Collier, Pasco and Lake counties,
Clancy J. Mullen, a principal with Duncan Associates of Austin, Texas, and Chicago, told the County Commission on March 9. The firm is working with county staff to update seven types of fees that date to a 2006-07 study. They are for parks, library services, fire and rescue, emergency medical services, law enforcement, justice and general government.
Adding in the updated fees would put Sarasota County third behind Collier and Pasco, Mullen said in his March 9 presentation.
The numbers were pegged to construction of a new 2,000-square-foot house, according to a slide Mullen showed the board.
The 100-percent level of the recommended impact fees for the seven types of county services for the new 2,000-square-foot home — minus road and school fees — would be $5,841, while the current level is $4,397, according to a slide. Combining all the fees would make the total $12,607, Mullen said, compared to the current level of $11,163.
Collier’s total fees — including roads and schools — add up to $19,547, Mullen noted. For Pasco, the figure is $14,855.
After Manatee County phases in its school impact fees to the 100-percent level over the next two years, he continued, that county will have a higher total than Sarasota County as well.
“Sarasota County charges the full range of [the seven specific] fees … and [it] has not discounted any of these [since they were implemented],” Mullen told the County Commission.
“I think this is really an important moment,” Commissioner Christine Robinson said. “It needs to be crystal clear that these fees have not been reduced.” An incorrect statement about their status has been printed in publications the past, she explained, noting, “There is such bad information out in the community over this.”
“I appreciate including the other fees,” Commissioner Charles Hines told Mullen, referring to the chart with the road and school figures. “It’s so hard to get an apples-to-apples comparison. Each county is different.”
A chart compares county impact fee totals, minus those fees for roads and schools. Image courtesy Sarasota County
A chart compares impact fees with those for schools and roads. Image courtesy Sarasota County
The County Commission adopted a Mobility Plan and Mobility Fee on Sept. 8, 2015, and school impact fees went into effect on Jan. 26, Beth Rozansky, the county’s impact fee administrator, pointed out in a March 9 memo.
Staff plans to come back to the County Commission on April 27 with proposed ordinances to update the other seven types of fees, her memo notes. At that time, the memo says, the commission can authorize advertisement of the ordinances and the setting of public hearings on them.
In response to a question from Chair Al Maio on March 9, Rozansky presented a slide showing that water and sewer capacity fees for a new single-family home — regardless of size — would add approximately $5,400 to the expense on top of the total of the impact fees. As of Jan. 1, the full range of fees for a house between 2,000 and 2,999 square feet would be $16,728.31, the chart shows.
During the discussion, Robinson also asked about handling impact fees in regard to affordable housing, seeking clarification from County Attorney Stephen DeMarsh.
“You could, for instance, discount affordable housing [fees],” DeMarsh told her. However, money would have to be taken out of the county’s General Fund to provide such supplements, he added. The board also can set fees at less than the 100-percent rate, he pointed out.
“You can’t favor one type of housing over another,” she summed up his response.
“No, you cannot,” DeMarsh told Robinson.
It has been suggested that the county discount fees for affordable housing, she pointed out, but the General Fund “is our most stressed found out of all of them.”
To his knowledge, DeMarsh replied, no study has been undertaken to calculate an impact fee directed at affordable housing, and that type of documentation would be the only legally defensible justification for charging a different set of fees for such homes.
“It actually hurts that effort [to build affordable homes] in many respects,” Robinson said. Yet, such housing “is in the minds of a lot of people in this county.”
“A great, great point,” Maio told her.
Commissioner Carolyn Mason also thanked Robinson for bringing up the matter. “It’s unfortunate,” Mason added of the situation with the impact fees, “but that’s the way it is.”
A chart shows total current fees for residential housing in Sarasota County, with water and sewer capacity fees. Image courtesy Sarasota County
Questions and answers
In a recap of some of the primary points he made to the County Commission on Dec. 9, 2015, Mullen pointed out that because the mobility fees the county adopted reduced the number of residential unit categories from nine to three, the impact fee update his firm has been working on has taken the same approach.
“Land costs are down,” compared to the 2006-07 timeframe, when the last study was undertaken, he continued. “Building costs are up, though.”
Furthermore, Mullen pointed out, the new study takes into account all the expenses associated with construction — from site development to environmental mitigation.
Mullen also told the board on March 9 that, since Dec. 9, 2015, he and county staff members have held stakeholder meetings and a roundtable with developers. They also have offered outreach to the municipalities and prepared a fact sheet to help educate the public about the coming changes.

Another question regarded whether higher fees are necessary in all areas, he said, adding that that is a policy matter for the board.A number of questions have arisen as a result of the outreach, he continued. For example, Mullen said, one person asked why the law enforcement fees were separate from the justice fees. The reason, he explained, is that law enforcement serves just the unincorporated area of the county, while the justice system serves the entire county.
Yet another query focused on the fact that some of the data utilized for the study goes back to 2014. “We can’t really, always have the most current available data, ’cause we’d never be finished [with the study],” Mullen explained. “It’s really a snapshot in time.”
In response to a question about why all the land costs were based on the expense of park property, Mullen noted that the bulk of the county’s land acquisitions over the past decade have been for parks, and that property served as the baseline for the study.
Because the county’s current fees are pegged to nine-year old studies, Mullen told the board, his firm’s recommendation is for the implementation of updated fees, as state law requires local government bodies to base their fees on the most recent data.
If the commissioners do choose to discount some of the fees, he pointed out, they should apply the same percentage to all land use categories for a particular fee, “to maintain the proportionality of the fees.”
Among the next steps, Mullen said, will be continued stakeholder outreach, further engagement with the municipalities and preparation of the ordinances for the board’s review in preparation for advertising them and holding public hearings.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Carlos el Senator?

Senator Beruff?

From the Bradenton Times

Dennis MaleyThursday, Mar 10, 2016

Note: for some reason this article from Bradenton Times does not mention the Democratic contenders for the seat being vacated by Sen. Marco Rubio.

Last week, Manatee County developer Carlos Beruff of Medallion Homes announced that he would join the already crowded GOP primary race for the United States Senate seat being vacated by Marco Rubio. Does he have a chance to win? Let’s take a look.

On the surface, Beruff’s chances don’t look all that promising. He’s entering the race very late, and there are already three contestants who have much better name recognition: Congressmen David Jolly and Ron DeSantis, and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera. Jolly is ahead in most polls, while DeSantis is consolidating much of the establishment money in fundraising and PACs. Beruff will obviously have his work cut out for him in overcoming those candidates’ advantages and the growing perception that it’s essentially a two-candidate race, no matter how many people are actually running.

It’s probably fair to say, however, that Beruff knows the political game as well as anyone and should be adept at playing it himself as a politician, the same as he has as a businessman, where he’s used political ties to his advantage in order to bend or even change the rules that apply to his business whenever they get in the way of the bottom line.
When the rules say he can only build so many houses per acre in a development and he wants to build more, Beruff routinely goes before the county commission and receives amendments to the comprehensive land use plan to allow for more density. When Mr. Beruff has wanted to destroy wetlands that stand in the way of his proposed development plans, he’s found ways around that as well.
By spreading around a lot of campaign cash all over local, state and even federal races, Beruff has managed to ensure that his requests are likely to go before friendly faces. In other instances, his has been the friendly face that others like him have been happy to find. Through his political connections, Beruff has managed to get himself appointed to a number of boards over the years, including that of the local water management district, the local airport authority and, currently, the board of trustees at State College of Florida. His last act before stepping down from Swiftmud was to approve a controversial application by his friend and sometimes business partner Pat Neal, giving him the the board’s approval to destroy wetlands on Perico Island.

Beruff’s favored status began under former Gov. Charlie Crist and has continued uninterrupted under Gov. Rick Scott, for whom Beruff has funneled around $90,000 in campaign donations over his two terms. Despite no experience in education, Beruff was appointed by Crist to the State College of Florida Board of Trustees, where he has proven himself something of an activist, working to oust the school’s president before leading a movement to have SCF become the first of the state’s 28 former community colleges to end its continuing contract status for instructors, a status that could be achieved by those who met rigorous standards in order to protect them from being terminated without just cause. Beruff managed to get that initiative passed earlier this year.

Beruff was also appointed as the chair of Governor Scott’s panel on health care, ostensibly formed to come up with solutions to the state’s indigent care problems in lieu of Scott’s stubborn refusal to accept federal tax dollars to expand Medicaid coverage. Again Beruff had no experience that suggested he would be a qualified member of such a body; however, like Crist, Scott seems very comfortable with him acting as an emissary. Whether and to what degree Beruff will be able to leverage his relationship with Governor Scott to aid his success in a Senate bid remains to be seen.

Beruff’s willingness to not only financially support political causes, but get out in front and carry the water on them has undoubtedly won him many friends and supporters among the Florida Republican establishment. Beruff and his wife have given at least $522,650 to campaigns on the state and federal level since 2003, according to a Herald-Tribune analysis. That’s a lot of back scratching. At 58, it shouldn’t be a surprise that he’s tempted to seek a title like Senator, following in the footsteps of many other wealthy businessmen who often look at it as the crowning jewel on their legacy.

Exactly how much money Beruff has or is willing to fund his campaign with isn't clear, but it may be a big part of the equation considering his late start in the race. In the year of the political outsider, Beruff’s campaign team immediately began painting the ultimate political insider as a change agent feared by the establishment, not unlike another politically-connected developer who's seeking an even bigger public office this year. However, as we've seen in that race, a run for such a high-profile office will bring much scrutiny to not only Beruff's deep political ties but his business dealings and multiple foreclosures in which banks lost tens of millions of dollars to companies and partnerships fronted by Beruff—including head-scratching cases like this one, in which he bought one such development back for dimes on the dollar.

Only time will tell whether the image makeover his campaign is laying out will convince Republican voters across Florida to get onboard with Beruff's bid. Where he is known best—Manatee and Sarasota Counties—there is nothing to suggest that voters will buy it. However, there are 65 more counties in Florida. Many of them have never heard of Carlos Beruff. To what degree and in what way will he be able to shape their impression by August? Only time will tell.
Dennis Maley is a featured columnist for The Bradenton Times. His column appears each Thursday and Sunday. Dennis' debut novel, A Long Road Home, was released in July, 2015. Click here to order your copy.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Public Lands: Mobilize to fight SB 1290

Call your Senator to stop SB 1290

From: Frank Jackalone:

Sierra Club lobbyist Dave Cullen reports that the ​state lands bill, SB 1290, which threatens ​Florida's public lands, especially ​our state parks, passed the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday.  Its companion bill, HB 1075, also passed last week on the floor of the House of Representatives.  

Our last chance to defeat or improve SB 1290 is on the Senate floor this week.  

Sierra Club Florida will take two actions to mobilize grassroots in opposition to the bill.  First, we will distribute an alert on Sunday to all Sierra Club members in Florida asking them to call their state senators. 

Second, we will involve as many volunteers as possible in a virtual phone bank to generate calls from our members to their senators all day Monday, 9:00 am to 6 pm.  

Anyone can join our virtual phone bank from the comfort of your home, office, park -- just about anywhere!  We use a system that allows you to make calls from any location if you have a computer with an online connection and a phone.   It's the same technology we used to help beat the fracking bill last week, involving 19 volunteers who reached more than 1,000 of our members and got 200 calls transferred directly to their senators. 

Can you give us an hour or more to make calls?  All you need is a phone line and a connected computer.  We'll provide the names and phone numbers of our members and show you how to connect automatically to a live person and connect that person directly to their Senator's office.

If you are interested and available, please reply directly and he'll get you scheduled to participate in the phone bank.

Thanks for your help!

- Frank

Frank Jackalone
Senior Organizing Manager
1990 Central Avenue
St. Petersburg, FL 33712
Office: 727-824-8813, x302;  Cell: 727-804-1317

Here is the text of the alert we are sending to all Sierra Club Florida Members tomorrow:

Cattle grazing in state parks? Call your Senator to stop it.

Dear friend,

We urgently need you to call your state Senator. A bill is headed to the Senate floor that would remove key environmental protections for Florida State Parks and threaten the use and enjoyment for all Floridians. 
SB 1290 passed out of its last committee last Thursday and ​will  be brought to the floor of the Senate​this week.

Please call your Senator and urge him or her to vote ‘No’ unless SB 1290 is amended to:

•      Exclude our state parks and preserves from the land exchange provision.  These important lands must not be given up to private use in exchange for conservation easements that could well eliminate public access

Require land management plans to remain consistent with the purposes for which they were acquired.  DEP’s goal of requiring land management plans to be compatible with conservation or recreation purposes or both potentially opens our parks and other conservation lands to inappropriate uses like hunting, logging, grazing, and off road vehicles. ‘Conservation’ and ‘recreation’ are broad categories and the purposes the lands were acquired for may be much narrower.  The bill’s language grants DEP too much discretion. 
This is the last real chance to impact this bill.  The House and Senate versions are the same and could be sent to the Governor next week.  Please call your Senator nowtell them where you live and that you vote.

Call your Senator now:

Sen. Joseph Abruzzo
Consists of part of Palm Beach county
Sen. Thad Altman
Consists of parts of Brevard, Indian River counties
Sen. Aaron  Bean
Consists of Nassau county and part of Duval county
Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto
Consists of parts of Charlotte, Lee counties
Sen. Rob Bradley
Consists of Alachua, Bradford, Clay counties
Sen. Jeff Brandes
Consists of parts of Hillsborough, Pinellas counties
Sen. Oscar Braynon
Consists of parts of Broward, Miami-Dade counties
Sen. Dwight Bullard
Consists of Hendry, Monroe counties and parts of Collier, Miami-Dade counties
Sen. Jeff Clemens
Consists of part of Palm Beach county
Sen. Charles Dean
Consists of Baker, Citrus, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Lafayette, Levy, Suwannee, Union counties and part of Marion county
Sen. Nancy Detert
Consists of Sarasota county and part of Charlotte county
Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla
Consists of part of Miami-Dade county
Sen. Greg Evers
Consists of Escambia, Santa Rosa counties and part of Okaloosa county
Sen. Anitere Flores
Consists of part of Miami-Dade county
Sen. Don Gaetz
Consists of Bay, Holmes, Jackson, Walton, Washington counties and part of Okaloosa county
Sen. Bill Galvano
Consists of DeSoto, Glades, Hardee counties and parts of Charlotte, Highlands, Hillsborough, Manatee counties
Sen. Rene Garcia
Consists of part of Miami-Dade county
Sen. Andy  Gardiner
Consists of parts of Brevard, Orange counties
Sen. Audrey Gibson
Consists of part of Duval county
Sen. Denise Grimsley
Consists of Okeechobee county and parts of Highlands, Martin, Osceola, Polk, St. Lucie counties
Sen. Alan Hays
Consists of parts of Lake, Marion, Orange, Sumter counties
Sen. Dorothy Hukill
Consists of parts of Lake, Marion, Volusia counties
Sen. Travis Hutson
Consists of Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns counties and part of Volusia county
Sen. Arthenia Joyner
Consists of parts of Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas counties
Sen. Jack Latvala
Consists of part of Pinellas county
Sen. Tom Lee
Consists of part of Hillsborough county
Sen. John Legg
Consists of parts of Hillsborough, Pasco counties
Sen. Gwen Margolis
Consists of part of Miami-Dade county
Sen. Bill Montford
Consists of Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Hamilton, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Taylor, Wakulla counties
Sen. Joe Negron
Consists of parts of Indian River, Martin, Palm Beach, St. Lucie counties
Sen. Garrett Richter
Consists of parts of Collier, Lee counties
Sen. Jeremy Ring
Consists of part of Broward county
Sen. Maria Sachs
Consists of parts of Broward, Palm Beach counties
Sen. David Simmons
Consists of Seminole county and part of Volusia county
Sen. Wilton Simpson
Consists of Hernando county and parts of Pasco, Sumter counties
Sen. Christopher Smith
Consists of part of Broward county
Sen. Eleanor Sobel
Consists of part of Broward county
Sen. Darren Soto
Consists of parts of Orange, Osceola, Polk counties
Sen. Kelli Stargel
Consists of parts of Orange, Osceola, Polk counties
Sen. Geraldine Thompson
Consists of part of Orange county

Thank you for taking action and for all you do for Florida's environment!
Dave Cullen
Sierra Club Florida