Friday, November 30, 2018

Court hearing in Citizen suit against Sarasota County Tuesday Dec. 4

Citizens sued Sarasota County with respect to the Grand Lakes development. The court has scheduled an Administrative hearing for Tuesday Dec. 4, 9 a.m.:

The suit, David Anderson vs Sarasota County and Ibis Rd. Investors LLC, argues that the Board of Sarasota County Commissioners violated terms of its own Comprehensive Plan in approving Pat Neal's proposed 1,000-home development without including a commercial component. Background on the lawsuit here.

Pat Neal, developer of Grand Lakes

The Dec. 4 hearing details:

David Anderson vs Sarasota County and Ibis Rd. Investors LLC

Tuesday 9 a.m. Justice Center 2071 Ringling Blvd. (NW corner of Ringling Blvd and East Ave little doorway) 

Courtroom #2 6th floor Judge Ffolks

The hearing go two days, more or less.

At stake, in the county's own words, is a core principle of 2050: integrating uses to avoid sprawl:
"the provision for non-residential uses through the establishment of mixed use Village and Neighborhood Centers is central to the concept of Villages as an alternative to urban sprawl. … Without the non-residential uses in close proximity and integrated into the residential uses, the Villages resemble other suburban residential development typical of Sarasota County and other communities.”  (SNL 8.16.18)
The homeowners contend that if Pat Neal is allowed to proceed under the proposed changes to the rules, the development of Grand Lakes
will promote sprawl and encourage disjointed patchwork development—exactly the things the 2050 plan is meant to discourage.
 The county is ignoring its own rules, the citizens say. Future developments could take the County's approval in Pat Neal's case as precedent for coming large-scale developments:
. . . relaxation of the core 2050 principles would open the way for future, large-scale developments such as 12,000-unit Hi Hat Ranch to sprawl rather than conform to contained village templates that link residential and commercial use in a constructive and meaningful manner. (Press release of plaintiffs).
In essence, without public sector stewardship, the business models for single family development could very well lead to sprawl.


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Can Florida Turn the Tide?

On Nov 27, 2018, stormwater engineer Steve Suau spoke to the North Port City Commission about strategies to combat Red Tide -- algae blooms responsible for the death of countless marine creatures, including many mammals, as well as airborne effects on people, and substantial economic damage to the tourist industry on the Gulf Coast.

Members of Hands Along the Water, a Florida advocacy group, spoke at the same meeting about what is now known about the causes and impacts of Red Tide. See the group's presentations here. Suau's talk is below.


1977 to present: (past 50 years): Red tide abundance and duration increases
1997 to present: Nitrogen concentrations in Sarasota and Lemon Bays increase
1995 to 2010: Current regulations presume 80% effectiveness of pond reduction, but
studies revealed that stormwater ponds reduce nitrogen runoff by only 40-45% effective
2000 to 2010: Florida conducts 10-year research and monitoring,
drafts Stormwater Rule and Advanced Stormwater Treatment Design Manual.  
2011: Incoming administration cancels Stormwater Rule and Manual
2018: Proven Stormwater Harvesting and Recycling Technology exists now
  • Quantifiable
  • Can be used within existing pond footprint
  • Can produce revenue 

2019 and Beyond: Hit the Restart Button: Resolve to ask the new DeSantis administration to reinitiate the Advanced Stormwater Treatment Rule public hearing and adoption process.

Red Tide on Siesta Beach, Sarasota, 2018 

Human Activity and Red Tide

Example of a stormwater harvesting program already operating in Venice, FL

For more on public concern, with presentations by members of Hands Along the Water, and how to write to Governor Elect Ron DeSantis, click here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Hands Along the Water to North Port: We can combat Red Tide

On Nov 27, 2018 at the North Port City Commission, members of Hands Along the Water, an environmental advocacy group, urged the Board to take a look at existing state research on the impact of nitrogen nutrients on Red Tide.

Despite many measures undertaken by local communities (e.g. closing septic tanks), nitrogen levels in coastal waters such as Sarasota and Lemon Bays have steadily been increasing:

What's more, clear evidence shows that stormwater ponds as currently managed do not achieve the 80% rate of nutrient reduction presumed by state regulations. The actual performance is closer to 40%-45%.

Beginning in 2000, the Dept. of Environmental Protection spent 10 years researching the issue and, after consulting experts statewide, had prepared in 2010 to put in place an Advanced Stormwater Harvesting and Recyling Plan. Then the new Rick Scott administration came into office, and swept all these plans aside.

With Hands Along the Water was Steve Suau, a stormwater engineer who has been working on the problem and how to best address it. Suau presented the facts and potential benefits of reviving the Advanced Stormwater Treatment option.

The group asked North Port Commissioners to consider adopting a Resolution that would ask Governor Elect Ron DeSantis to restart this effort to reduce nitrogen runoff. The effort would be neither costly nor difficult - in fact it could produce revenue, the group said. Here is a summary timeline:

1977 to present: (past 50 years): Red tide abundance and duration increases
1997 to present: Nitrogen concentrations in Sarasota and Lemon Bays increase
1995 to 2010: Current regulations presume 80% effectiveness of pond reduction, but
studies revealed that stormwater ponds reduce nitrogen runoff by only 40-45% effective
2000 to 2010: Florida conducts 10-year research and monitoring,
drafts Stormwater Rule and Advanced Stormwater Treatment Design Manual.  
2011: Incoming administration cancels Stormwater Rule and Manual
2018: Proven Stormwater Harvesting and Recycling Technology exists now
  • Quantifiable
  • Can be used within existing pond footprint
  • Can produce revenue 

2019 and Beyond: Hit the Restart Button: Resolve to ask the new DeSantis administration to reinitiate the Advanced Stormwater Treatment Rule public hearing and adoption process.

See Steve Suau's full presentation here.

Letter to Governor Elect Ron DeSantis.

Hands Along the Water speakers:

Samantha Gentrup

Nadine Baker

Brian Kelly

Joan San Lwin

Tim Ritchie

Edie Driest

More on this significant opportunity for to do someting about Red Tide here.

More about Red Tide

Members of Hands Along the Water at North Port City Hall Nov. 27, 2018

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Antunes: Bendersonville at the Bridge

Cathy Antunes is a citizen advocate who writes "The Detail" and hosts a weekly radio program about issues of concern to Sarasotans - both county and city. This article appeared first in SRQ Daily.  Bendersonville at the Bridge. Cathy can be reached at
How much density and intensity makes sense near a natural traffic bottleneck? Sarasota County may be pushing their luck and playing fast and loose with the health, safety and welfare of the community with the potential approval of Benderson Development’s request to build 479 residential units and 140,000 square feet of retail space at U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road. This intersection is already jammed during season, when a “Don’t Block the Intersection” electronic sign appears, threatening a $166 fine for those who “block the box.” The south bridge to Siesta Key at the west end of Stickney Point Road is the natural bottleneck, which creates the traffic backup. There are only two bridges providing access to Siesta Key. That reality is unlikely to ever change.

Siesta Promenade height and separation:
Sarasota News Leader
Traffic flows best when a road network is laid out and functioning as a grid—an interconnected system of routes giving us many alternatives to drive from one place to another. Numerous roads laid out east to west (Fruitville Road, Bahia Vista, Bee Ridge, Clark) and north to south (Honore, McIntosh, Tuttle) take pressure off of main thoroughfares like US 41. These north to south routes even help reduce local driving trips on I-75.

Congestion is also reduced when grid road networks exist in residential neighborhoods. Narrow neighborhood streets naturally force cars to slow down, and wide neighborhood streets create the perfect conditions for speeding. Offering residents a grid of narrow streets to enter and exit their neighborhoods provides safe traffic flow. A larger community grid road network does the same for a city or county.

But there are places where a grid is impossible. There are places where all traffic must be funneled onto one road. If you want to get to Siesta Key’s beaches via a route south of Bee Ridge Rd., you must drive through U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road, and travel west on Stickney to cross the south bridge. There is no other option.

Benderson’s lots on the northwest corner of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point have been vacant for over 10 years. Before being cleared, there was a Shell gas station on the corner and mobile homes behind the station. The current zoning allows for 300 mobile homes or residential multi family (townhomes, apartments) units, and some office or professional development. The current zoning would add about 4,000 car trips to the existing 45,000 cars at the congested corner.  Benderson’s request would add at least 8,000 more car trips. 

Benderson Siesta Promenade: Planning Commission Thursday 11.15.18

At Thursday’s Planning Commission hearing, Commissioner Robert Morris understood the unique problem at that corner. “It’s too much for there,” Morris said. “It might make sense to me somewhere else. But because you have that intersection, but because you have that bridge, it’s a unique situation.”

Benderson Development can ask to build more, but Mr. Benderson is not entitled to build more.  You wouldn’t know that listening to Planning Commissioners, who voted to recommend the project. Good Planning prevents traffic nightmares. Good planning includes saying “No.”

Cathy Antunes is the host of The Detail.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Let's not contrive a crony-driven disaster at our Celery Fields

Two-alarm fire at metal and recycling 

plant sends large plume 

of smoke over Sarasota

SARASOTA (WWSB) - If you were driving in Sarasota on Monday, you may have seen a large plume of smoke coming from the University and 301 area.
A two-alarm fire started at Suncoast Metals on 51st Street, a metal and recycling plant. The fire started in a pile of rubble and was caused by friction. Fire officials say as the items in the pile rubbed against one another while being pushed and pulled, it got hot enough to start a blaze.

Deputies are assisting with traffic on the scene of an industrial fire near 51st Street and Middle Avenue in Sarasota. You may see smoke nearby; please avoid the area.
Deputies are assisting with traffic on the scene of an industrial fire near 51st Street and Middle Avenue in Sarasota. You may see smoke nearby; please avoid the area. (Sarasota County Sheriff's Office)

Nearby buildings were evacuated out of caution as crews fought the fire. After the visible flames were out, machinery was used to separate the pile to ensure there were no smaller fires still burning in the pile.
The fire is now out.
The photo below from Kirsten Ketchum Barat shows the massive plume of smoke rising as firefighters battled the blaze:

Fire at metal and recycling plant from Kirsten Ketchum Barat
Fire at metal and recycling plant from Kirsten Ketchum Barat (Source: Kirsten Ketchum Barat)
Copyright 2018 WWSB. All rights reserved.

Chapman: Notes on Sarasota City election 2018

Susan Chapman and Kafi Benz talk about the city election -- a business-backed initiative to change the date of the primary and general city elections won approval from voters. They were at CONA on Monday, Nov. 12, 2018.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Broken Banana

Republicans broke Florida politics. Things won’t be better there next time.

Democrats always think they’re one election away from taking back the state.

November 7, 2018 at 5:20 PM
Sen.-elect Rick Scott, governor of Florida, addresses an election-night rally Tuesday in Naples, Fla. (Jayme Gershen/Bloomberg)
I am not writing this from Florida proper, but from an occupied territory within Florida’s borders. I hail from Broward County, where roughly 7 in 10 voters this year chose Democrats over Republicans, and where none — not a single one — of those Democrats won their five statewide races outright Tuesday.
Andrew Gillum, the Tallahassee mayor who would have been Florida’s first black governor, led 16 of 17 polls taken in the state since mid-October and was given a 77 percent chance of winning by FiveThirtyEight’s projection model. He appears to have lost to Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis, who was credibly accused of running a racistfearmongering campaign, by about 50,000 votes out of more than 8 million cast. Bill Nelson, the incumbent Democratic senator, was widely expected to win, pulled along on the dynamic Gillum’s coattails. Nelson is currently losing statewide to tycoon and outgoing GOP Gov. Rick Scott by fewer about 30,000 votes out of 8.1 million.
My corner of Florida, the state’s bluest and one of its most populous, voted for Democrats in concentrations that rival those of Philadelphia, Manhattan and Chicago. And many state Democrats are pointing to some positive signs: They flipped two House seats in South Florida. They got voters to restore the franchise to the state’s estimated 1.7 million convicted felons, while banning offshore drilling and indoor vaping. Key West elected its first openly lesbian mayor, which is awesome, and would be even more awesome if I could afford to live in Key West or had any assurance that it won’t be strangled by sea-level rise before I die. In any case, some Democrats look at last night’s results and say, hey, Florida is still within reach.
Sure. It’s been just within reach since 2006, the last time a Democrat won a statewide office.
As pundits go crazy trying to reconcile the Sunshine State’s turnout with the national results, let me offer my own theory: “Florida” is increasingly a meaningless political entity, except in Republican electoral win columns. It is not a purple state, but a dystopian Republican frontier of America’s systematic “Big Sort” — a collection of ultra-blue principalities surrounded by and alienated from an entrenched ultrared state government.
Do you seek a bellwether for the United States’ chances of surviving Trumpism? Look to Florida, where the Mar-a-Lago spirit has been a governing ethos for many years already. So you want to know how Florida survives. The answer is it probably won’t — not as a functioning state that tends to the needs of its 21 million people. Florida is going to get more divided, less governable, and probably more susceptible to oligarchs and fiefdoms than it already is.
That’s the way Republicans have made it since they gained a trifecta in the state in the 1990s. A quarter-century of GOP legislative dominance has wrecked state services, created a haven for tax-hating rural retirees, gerrymandered districts repeatedly and relentlessly, bloated Tallahassee with outside money and lobbying influence, and created an electoral infrastructure that reliably delivers 50.1 percent of the vote to, uh, whatever Republican you’ve got. The party then accumulates those slight victories into a decades-long mandate, ensconcing its elite, rendering any alternative governance increasingly hard and unlikely.
Rick Scott is the Meriwether Lewis of this Republican strategy, the party’s prototypical pioneering wealthy neophyte candidate. After eight years in the governor’s mansion, his first public-sector job, Scott — like Trump — remains largely incompetentawkwardignorant of normsfull of fake optimism and loved only by his strongest partisans. But unlike Trump, Scott is capable of shutting up, comfortable telling more conventional lies and actually willing to blow massive portions of his dubiously gotten personal fortune to stay in races he should lose.
As of Wednesday afternoon — as his edge over Nelson hovers around recount territory — Scott has won three statewide elections in eight years by a total margin of 155,871 votes out of 18,976,891 cast, or 0.8 percent of the total vote. In those three elections, Scott pumped at least $124 million of his own wealth into his campaigns. If you believe public records, Scott has spent more than half of his net worth (or less than a quarter of his family’s net worth) to squeak out three victory margins just above automatic recount level. In Tuesday’s race, as in previous ones, he bought a slew of last-minute ads appealing to the id-impulses of Floridians. Scott won over-65s by double digits in this retiree-heavy state, although by Election Day his campaign message had largely boiled down to “Look how old my opponent is!
DeSantis, Scott’s gubernatorial heir apparent, called his black opponent “Andrew Kill-em,” parroted Trump lies calling Gillum’s hometown of Tallahassee the state’s murder and crime capital, refused to return campaign donations from an outspoken racist supporter, and told voters not to “monkey this up” by voting for Gillum’s “socialist,” “extreme radical” ideas.
“I’m not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist,” Gillum responded. “I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist.” DeSantis won 6 of 10 white voters in Florida on Tuesday.How did he and Scott run up enough of a margin in conservative counties to counterbalance the historic blue turnout in places such as South Florida? We may never really know, I suppose. In unrelated news, 65 percent of Walton County voters approved a measure Tuesday to fly a rebel flag on a local courthouse that bills itself as “Florida’s first Confederate monument.” They also voted for DeSantis over Gillum by 52.5 percentage points.
So, yes, you can look at the consistent Republican overperformance against polls in Florida in 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016 and now 2018, and say that, without the obscene amounts of money and animus, plus a quarter-century of single-party domination, all these squeaker contests might otherwise be walkovers for sanity. But this is what Florida is. This is what it’s been molded into. The state is not going to get bluer: But its blue oases will, even as a red tide permanently claims more and more of the lands between them.
Take the ostensible victory of the night: voters’ approval of Amendment 4, which extends the franchise to the roughly 10 percent of the state population who have been convicted of a felony. Florida felons are now theoretically able to vote, but they’re practically reliant on a Republican governor, secretary of state and legislature not standing in the way of their attempts to exercise those restored rights. Democratic hopes (and GOP fears) of a blue wave in 2020 led by the newly franchised in Florida seem Pollyanna-ish when you look at the state’s gerrymandering and voter-suppression tactics in recent decades — though those look tame when compared with anti-voter GOP regimes in states such as Georgia and North Carolina.
Even if Florida Democrats start winning, they’ll have to contend with another newly approved amendment to the state Constitution that makes raising taxes impossible without a supermajority of votes in the legislature. In other words, if any politician in this 50.5 percent majority state actually wanted to improve a crumbling state Department of Children and Families, or beef up public disaster and health-crisis response, or rebuild a gutted public education budget, they’d have to get two-thirds of the state House and Senate to agree. (Republicans maintain comfortable, largely impregnable majorities in both chambers.)
For all the talk about Florida’s purpleness and unpredictability, for all of the Democratic turnout efforts and number-crunching and target-hitting, we have a stable model: The blue parts get bluer, while the red parts get redder, the election results stay slightly red, and the entrenched political culture gets much redder. In the future, Democrats will find more voters here, and Republicans will find more ways to make it hard for those votes to be counted, and even harder for them to lead to changes in government. There is no center to hold, only anarchy loosed upon the third-largest state in America.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Election 2018: A candidate reflects

Liv Coleman for Florida State House District 73

Re-posted from Liv Coleman's Facebook page:
Congratulations to Tommy Gregory on his election victory. I appreciate his civility this campaign season. He has a wonderful family as well, and I’ve been glad to meet them and get to know them. Tommy offered his campaign in the spirit of public service, and we certainly have public-service needs for better funding for our schools & to end the high-stakes testing regime. We certainly have public service needs for attention in Manatee County to transportation and infrastructure. My hope and expectation is that Tommy will be amenable to discussing these issues with supporters of mine who have sought this kind of relief. On other issues, however, it may be tougher sledding. Still, Tommy offers himself as an open and accessible lawmaker, so I encourage others to reach out to him with questions & policy concerns that they have.
I’ve never been afraid to run a race as an underdog or to work hard for a far-distant goal. What is unfortunate, however, is that the Trump fever has not yet broken. And that those I would otherwise consider “good people” cannot yet see the racism, sexism, and xenophobia that have been unleashed by the president in more open spaces than ever before. Equally troubling is that there are those who are just not troubled by it. And I worry that too many in our community still don’t fully appreciate the corrosiveness on our democracy of the constant attacks on the news media, who have been fairly effectively neutered in our community already. And I think many are unaware of, or simply don’t care about, the toll and labor with which people speak and breathe as Democrats in East Manatee & Sarasota Counties outside of Democratic Party clubs and meet & greets.
A person should be able to be a Democrat and be themselves in Manatee & Sarasota Counties, without being shouted down or shut down or sneered at or made the butt of snide comments. Democratic candidates should not have to fight to be invited to candidate forums. When they are invited to forums, their names should be publicized equally with the other candidates. And in the local newspaper, if Republican candidates’ educational credentials are stated in full in an article, the Democratic candidates’ educational credentials should also be stated in full. Basic norms of fairness should apply to political competition.
Regardless of political affiliation, a person should be able to participate in peaceful public protests in Manatee County without fear of law enforcement or fear of bearing the costs of whatever newest regulation Manatee County Commissioners have passed that is designed to stifle dissent. Elected representatives should not block constituents or members of the local news media with questions on social media. And news media should regard democratic norms and practices, not just electoral competition, as appropriate subjects of political reporting, if they want to claim the mantle of the Fourth Estate.
It’s going to be a tough couple years until 2020. The next election will be here before we know it. But the real fight for our democracy is right here in our community.
As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”
An election is just an election. Democracy is everyday.
Peace and be well.
Don’t worry. The work will begin again.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Local Candidates on Twitter

Check out what these new candidates have to say. They're intelligent, energetic, passionate about issues, and they're challenging the entrenched incumbents who have done little or nothing for Sarasota or for Florida.

Each link takes you to the candidate's Twitter stream - you can tune in and see their concerns, and how they address them:

Ruta Maria Jouniari Sarasota County Commission Dist. 2

Wesley Ann Beggs Sarasota County Commission Dist.  4

David Shapiro US House Dist. 16

Olivia Babis Florida Senate District 23

Tracy Pratt Florida State Rep. House Dist. 71

Margaret Good Florida State Rep. House Dist. 72

Liv Coleman Florida State Rep. House Dist. 73

Tony Mowry  Florida House Dist. 74

l to r: David Shapiro, Shirley Brown, Wesley Ann Beggs, Ken Marsh, Ruta Jouniari, Tracy Pratt
(Shirley Brown has won her School Board Race, Mr. Marsh is president of the LBK Democratic Club)
Photo from LBK Observer

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Vote, Protest, Reflect

Board of Sarasota County Commissioners

On Tuesday, Nov. 6, vote for diversity in government. Right now, we have none. The 50-year reign of a single party is never healthy; in Sarasota County it's petrified our Boards and the people who serve them. Around the county, communities like Sura's are working hard to prevent having their neighborhoods ruined by overbuilding, traffic, flooding, and related ills of dumb growth. As Kelly Kirschner recently wrote, the imbalance of powerful interests has compromised us. The explosion of new development - more than 30,000 new homes just in Northeast Sarasota --  will compromise us more.

On Sunday Nov. 11 at 4 pm, people will gather at Gulf Gate Mall to protest the gargantuan ambitions of Benderson Development's Siesta Promenade. The press will be there. Let Sura Kochman know if you'll be there by emailing her at -- she recommends:
  • MEET in the normally empty parking lot area in between the Bank of America and across from Hooters.
  • BRING SIGNS (you can make)
This SNL story about the Critical Area Plan is highly relevant.

On Monday, Nov. 12 at CONA, County Supervisor of Elections Ron Turner will analyze the voting patterns of this mid-term election. Details here. 

Here's hoping Mr. Turner will have some new patterns to report on.