Friday, October 18, 2019

WTF underway at Celery Fields

LTE to the Herald Tribune from Dennis Robertson:

Reading H-T's front-page article of Monday, October 14, 2019, one would be left with the impression that James Gabbert's TST Ventures plan for a giant debris demolition facility had been "successfully fended off" and the insanity of a waste dump being built right at the edge of an established nature preserve had been stopped.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Butting-up right next to the Celery Fields quads in question in that article, construction of a Waste Transfer Facility is well underway.

In August 2017, multiple ad-hoc groups and hundreds of protesters did beat back Gabbert's proposed giant 16-acre debris demolition plant in the quads. In voting to oppose Gabbert's plan, Commissioner Nancy Detert observed that the time had passed for industry in the area. Everyone thought that was the end of it.

It was not.

Bob Waechter
In 2015 county commissioners, urged on by warehouse landlord Bob Waechter, had approved Gabbert's plan for a "Waste Transfer Facility" (WTF) on 4.3 acres he owned next to I-75 and adjacent to our public lands.

After being beat down with common sense in 2017, TST Ventures reverted to that 2015 approval.

Anyone who bothers to consult the EPA's manual on siting transfer facilities knows that such sites must accommodate giant trucks.

Entrance to WTF at Palmer and Bell Rd.

Gabbert's WTF will service more than 100 trucks per day filled with waste, adding to already congested, inadequate roads.

Where are the current traffic studies?

WTF wall 50' from canal

A facility like this should be 200' from any waterway, Gabbert's is only 50 feet away from drainage that ends up in Sarasota Bay.

Truth to power be damned, who in the county and state signed off on any of this? And why?

The thousands who protested can now bring their toxic construction debris and pesticide-laden yard waste to his facility near an established preserve and Audubon Nature Center.

To add insult to injury, on Wednesday, Nov. 6 the County Commission, stewards of this nature preserve, will consider a plan to rezone and sell our public lands for yet more industry on parcels closer to the Celery Fields.

The public needs to be there.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Advocate: Unanswered Questions on county's bungled redistricting effort


To the Sarasota County Commission:
Below is information copied from the Redistricting page on It includes an official acknowledgment of the public participation in the selection of an Alternative District map, and the timeline to complete your redistricting project.  
Since the first public Open House on 9/18, additional disturbing information has been disclosed which warrants shutting down this early redistricting exercise. Yet your timeline suggests that flawed population methodology and appearances of compromise will not halt your quest to dictate the future of county voters.
Please respond to the following requests:
·      The County acknowledges the contributions of 2000 residents in the input survey, but at your meeting on October 7th, you essentially dismissed the map preference selected by 90% of the respondents. Please account for this inconsistency.  
“…From Sept. 17 to Oct. 1, Sarasota County Government held five redistricting open houses as well as circulated an online public input survey. We appreciate your feedback — more than 2,000 public input forms were submitted. Read all the input submitted below….”
·      What is the agenda for your “special meeting” on October 30, 2019?  There are no details in the list of Next Steps at the end of this message, although other dates in the redistricting timeline specifically indicate an action or purpose.  On October 30th:
o   Which maps will you consider---those “citizen” maps enhanced by Kurt Spitzer which show two Commissioners living in the same District—noted by red dots (See link and attachment: Waechter/alias Smith, former Commissioner Mason, Miller and Thomas)? Or will you display even more map options similarly unviewable on screen at a public meeting? 
Please be specific, since there’s an impression that the Smith map (aka Bob Waechtermay  serve as the template for the final District map. 
o   Has Mr. Waechter ever participated in configuring District maps for the County Commission in the past, e.g., post-2010 Census?  
o   How will the public be involved in your process---as spectators or active, meaningful participants? You touted this process as interactive and fair.  When will that happen?
o   By October 30th, will you have shared your District boundary preferences privately with the consultant for a second time? If so, will you divulge what you shared since you also promised to be transparent 
o   Will you accept additional map boundary ideas from political operatives identified by name or alias?  If so, please expound.
o   Will you go on record and dismiss the flaws discovered and confirmed by subcontractor Richard Doty, a recognized population expert at BEBR, the organization which provided the methodology for your contractor’s population study?  
o   Will you explain how it’s acceptable to demean justifiably concerned citizens by referring to them as “white noise”, when they include the Herald Tribune, Venice Gondolier Sun, SRQ Daily, the League of Women Voters and various City Commissions in Sarasota County?  

Since the “special” meeting on 10/30 is still two weeks in the making, I look forward to receiving your responses in a timely manner. 
Or, better yet---Finally do what’s best for your constituents and tell everyone that you’re waiting until after the 2020 Census to draw new District boundaries.  Displaying this questionable endeavor in plain sight does not make it right, and does not serve the public interest. 
Pat Rounds, 
District 1

Next Steps
  • Oct. 30  - BCC Special Meeting on Redistricting
o   Time: 1:30 p.m.
o   Location: Commission Chambers, 1st floor in Administration Building, 1660 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota
  • Oct. 26 - Advertise Nov. 5, 2019, Notice of Public Hearing to adopt map.
  • Nov. 5 - Board action to adopt district boundaries and associated map.
  • Nov. 10 and 17 - Advertise district boundary map adopted on Nov. 5, 2019.
  • Nov. 19 - Board action to approve minutes from Nov. 5, 2019, including adopted map and acknowledge proof of publication for inclusion in the Nov. 19, 2019, minutes.
  • Dec. 10 - Board approval of minutes from Nov. 19, 2019, acknowledging proof of publication of adopted map.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Driving emissions in Sarasota up 61%

The New York Times 10.10.19

Local planning for sea level rise and climate change

CONA Sarasota forum 10.11.19 with representatives of North Port, Sarasota County, the city of Sarasota, and Longboat Key addressing adaptation and preparation for coming changes to sea level and climate.

Full video here. (A few minutes were lost due to equipment malfunction).

CONA Sarasota Resource page

l. to r. Kafi Benz, Stevie Freeman Montes, Lee Hayes Byron, Darcy Young, Molly Holland, Elizabeth Wong, Carolyn Brown, Jerry Traverso

Friday, October 4, 2019

Comment on Critical Area Plan for the Quad Parcels at the Celery Fields - #2

October 4, 2019

Mr. Steve Kirk
Sarasota County
Planning and Development Services
1660 Ringling Blvd.
Sarasota, FL

Re:  Critical Area Plan for the Palmer Blvd./Quads Area

Dear Mr. Kirk,

I appreciate your compiling the diverse attributes of my neighborhood and laying out some interpretations in the Critical Area Plan draft.  This is indeed a grand undertaking, and I’m sure you’ve put in many hours!

I see: Adopted in 1985, the CAP was privately initiated and required to meet the provisions of the Comprehensive Plan to map the designated industrial area. 

Click to enlarge
I would be curious to know who initiated this CAP, and if these “players” are still around today.  Even back then, you would think any plan would be publicly initiated.

The draft outlines the zoning districts listed below. I believe Figure 5 should have widened the territory to include a much larger view, and the acreages should be given for residential in the wider area.

The following zoning districts (Figure 5) and acreages exist within the CAP:
  •  PID (Planned Industrial Development) - 167.4
  •  ILW (Industrial, Light Manufacturing and Warehousing) - 75
  •  OUR (Open Use Rural) (Quad’s parcels) - 55.2
  •  PED (Planned Economic Development) (SPA 3) - 29
  •  GU (Government Use) (Ackerman Park, fire station) - 30.2
  •  OUE-1 (Open Use Estate) (stormwater pond) - 15.7
  •  PCD (Planned Commerce Development) - 12.3

Some of the recommended permitted uses should be prohibited, such as the following:
  • Light Industrial (there is enough current capacity in the industrial parks)
  • Office                                                    
  • Research laboratory
  • Warehouse and freight movement
  • Wholesale trade
  • Vocational, trade or business school
  • College or university
  • Vehicle service
  • Sale of vehicle parts and accessories
  • Sale of lumber and building supplies
Implementing Zoning Districts

The Comprehensive Plan identifies the implementing zoning districts for each future land use designation. The following are the implementing zoning districts identified for the MEC designation:
  •  ILW (Industrial Light Manufacturing & Warehousing)
  •  IR (Industrial Research)
  •  PCD (Planned Commerce District) (Planned District)
  •  PED (Planned Economic Development) (Planned District)
  •  GU (Government Use)
Also, I disagree with this recommendation:

N.W. and S.W. Quads
Industrial / Office - Suitable
  • Consistent with Comprehensive Plan and surrounding uses.
  •  Low traffic generator
  •  Retains MEC land in employment use.
An additional zoning district should be added to the UDC: Parks and Recreation.  I think that this should be recommended rather than the blanket MEC.

Just as the City of Sarasota is looking at amending zoning to create this set-apart district, Sarasota County should have such a zoning district.


I do not see any solicitation of opinions from public/private/charter schools regarding student transportation needs.  Would you please reach out to some entities for input?

Center Road and Lorraine Road

The completion of the gap in Center Road between Fruitville Road and Palmer Boulevard should be considered to generally improve connectivity in the area of the CAP and complete a mobility loop through the CAP and around the Celery Fields. Alternatively, the construction of a pedestrian/bike path in the area of this gap could be considered.

The Critical Area Plan for this area necessarily involves a discussion of the
extension of Lorraine Road from Palmer Boulevard to Fruitville.  Also, traffic on Palmer from Lorraine to Debrecen will soon be “F” LOS, from Debrecen to Fruitville “F”, and from Debrecen to Lorraine on Fruitville “F” (per traffic engineer Kwamena Sankah).  Why does this matter?  Because traffic that can’t get to Fruitville will even more clog the Apex area.

Traffic studies – current and anticipatory – are notoriously flawed.  It’s impossible to believe studies will approach reality.  They haven’t in the past, and that will be the future story.
Mitigating Improvements Section 3, Mobility, of this study indicated that the improvements associated with the Cattlemen Road Construction Phase II project and the construction of a roundabout or signalization of the Apex Road and Palmer Boulevard intersection will improve the roadway level of service (LOS) in the area. However, the LOS for that section of Palmer Boulevard west of Apex Road will likely continue to be below the adopted LOS. Also, identified as a mitigating improvement is the expansion to 4 lanes of Palmer Boulevard from Porter Road to Apex Road. However, that expansion would conflict with the objective of preserving the existing character of Palmer Boulevard with its open corridor and roadway section also identified in this study. With the development of any of the Quads parcels, Transportation Planning will identify certain improvements such as turn lanes that will be required to accommodate the traffic generated by a proposed use.
There really is no use that won’t increase traffic and ruin the larger neighborhood character.   Keep in mind that identified capital project needs require funding of $1.2 billion.  Where will money come from for creative roadway improvements that will serve the community in a respectful way?

Public/Civic – Suitable  - Agree – but what?
  • Allowed as part of mixed use in PCD and PED. Limited to 50% of PCD. Traditional town center design requirements must be met in PED. N.W. Quad may be too small for PED design requirements
  • No limitations in GU district.
The public has clearly spoken about public uses, so there is no lack of input there. Any use should be put to the public test, with open communication.  Any government uses (Natural History Museum?) should be also put to the public test.


Glenna Blomquist

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Net political effect of alternative redistricting maps - switching Republican and Democratic voters

***Breaking UPDATE*** 

Errors found in Sarasota County Commission district population study

The population study that forms the basis of the Sarasota County Commission’s redistricting plan has some big inaccuracies at the neighborhood level, something the expert behind the study warned of and a flaw that could negate the whole purpose for redrawing the commission district boundaries by making it hard to know if the new districts have an equal number of people. 
“To be honest — good, fast and cheap,” Doty said, describing the estimate approach. “We had very little time. We had basically a week to do this work and not enough money or time to do significant quality control.” 
Doty said he has no way of calculating the margin of error, but added that “at the block level it’s going to be high.” 
Read the whole piece: Herald Tribune


The existing county districts are shown here:

Below: An analysis of the specific options presented by the Consultant: Existing districts and three alternative options:

See Sarasota County's web page on Redistricting for district maps and related information:

The analysis below has been vetted on the 3 different Alternative maps proposed for redistricting:

The BOCC’s stated justification for redistricting has been the need to rebalance population across the three districts. This essentially required the private consultant (Spitzer) to increase the populations of D1, D2, and D4 by 3,000 to 4,000 people while reducing D3 and D5 by 5,000 to 6,000. Given the stated desire of preserving the core of existing district boundaries these population transfers do not require major restructuring. Just some modest tweaks.

In order to determine the partisan impacts of Spitzer’s maps we can start with the existing partisan composition of each district before analyzing the changes in partisan composition resulting from full or partial precinct transfers.

As of September 18, partisan composition of the districts was as follows:
D1 – 21,275 Ds, 20,780 Rs, (Ds +495)
D2 – 19,795 Ds, 25,572 Rs (Rs +5,783)
D3 – 17,424 Ds, 26,970 Rs (Rs +9,546)
D4 – 18,718 Ds, 27,969 Rs (Rs +9,251)
D5 – 19,759 Ds, 32,880 Rs (Rs +13,121)
The partisan composition does not translate perfectly into partisan performance (election outcomes). Turnout can vary across partisan registrations along with crossover voting. And NPA voters (which are significant and growing) do not break evenly across Ds and Rs with year to year registration. Rs typically have a higher turnout percentage while Ds tend to get a higher share of the NPA vote. Crossover voting is difficult to determine but it appears to be less apparent with each cycle. All of these factors considered, Ds tend to overperform the partisan composition of most Sarasota county precincts but there is spacial and temporal variation (it varies over place and time).

Past election outcomes demonstrate the above observations. In 2016, Atkins got 488 more votes than Moran in D1. He got 4637 fewer votes than Moran in D2. Most Ds running in 2016 won by modest amounts in D1 and lost by 3000 to 5000 votes in D2. This tracks reasonably close to partisan composition. 2018 was a better year for Democrats in Sarasota County. Beggs “won” D1 by 3095 votes and only lost D2 by 14 votes. She did a little better than Nikki Fried in D1 (who won by 2819 votes) but a little worse in D2 (Fried won by 673 votes). Fried was the best performing D in Sarasota in 2018 btw. Conversely, Jouniari only won D1 by 880 votes and lost D2 by 1183 votes. So, under the current boundaries, a D can win D1 by a few thousand votes in a really good year. In a bad year they might lose by a few hundred to a thousand. In a good to great year a D might be able to eke out a win in D2. In a bad year they can lose by 5000 or more votes.

So how do the three maps change things?

Alternative Map 1 moves precincts 203, 205, 207 and half of 209 from D2 to D1. It moves precincts 129, 131 and half of 127 from D1 to D2. It also moves 409 from D4 to D2.

For D1 this means a marginal gain of about 500 D voters. For D2 it is a marginal loss of about 1200 D voters.

Pct. 233

Alternative Map 2 moves precinct 233 from D2 to D1 (there are almost 1700 more Rs than Ds in this precinct). It moves roughly 60% of precinct 127 from D1 to D2. It also moves precincts 405, 407 and half of 413 from D4 to D2.

For D1 this means a marginal loss of about 1100 D voters. For D2 this means a marginal gain of about 500 D voters.

Pct. 127

Alternative Map 3 also moves precinct 233 from D2 to D1. It moves precincts 129, 131 and half of precinct 127 from D1 to D2 and it moves precincts 405, 407 and half of 413 from D4 to D2.

For D1 this means a marginal loss of about 1300 D voters. For D2 this means a marginal gain of about 800 D voters.

Questions about County survey

A citizen's letter to the presenter of Sarasota County's paid survey, which was reported on 9.27.19 in the Sarasota News Leader.

Slide courtesy of the Sarasota News Leader

Dear Ms. Ghomshe,

I did not attend this year's presentation of the annual Sarasota County survey this year, however I had several problems with last year's report, as I believe I may have expressed to you in person in 2018.

As I read in today's Sarasota News Leader, I again have questions.

I have heard this to express our population:
"Hi! Nice to meet you.  How long have you lived in Sarasota?"
"Oh, a long time - three years."
The past includes merely yesterday, and so the experience of many new residents is only today and tomorrow.  Likely the combined satisfaction rate of 95% just reflects what people notice:  Their garbage gets picked up, so they are happy.  And of course, there's no state tax:  This is heaven for folks from MN, IL, IA, NE, MI, etc.

The fact is, a majority of our residents know very little about our county government.  Here is the proof: 
Each respondent was asked whether he or she lives in a municipality or in the unincorporated part of the county, Myrick said. “We actually used GIS [software] to plot where they actually live versus where they said they lived,” she explained. “A lot of residents are confused about where they live …”:  
If you don't know where you live, you likely are not voting in local elections:  These are not engaged citizens, more like "visitors" enjoying the scenery.
"One possible explanation for the high number who had no idea how to respond, he pointed out, is the influx of new residents."
Why include respondents who do not have the experience of really living here?

Regarding the “rainy day fund” reserve:  
"The correct answer in the survey was that the fund is doing better, Scacco told the board members. Yet, only 22.6% could provide the proper response. Conversely, he said, 38% had no idea how the fund is doing, while another 9.1% responded that it is doing worse."
How heavily can you count the responses of detached citizens on other subjects if they are so disinterested in management of their tax money (if indeed they pay any property tax in Sarasota County).  Are your respondents landowners whose primary residence is declared to be Florida?

I disagree with Commissioner Hines: “What I think I know or I believe, living in the community, is reflected in your numbers,” Commission Chair Charles Hines told Scacco at the end of the presentation. The survey “really gives us an idea of what people are feeling,” Hines added. “A very loud minority … can affect our policies.”

There are only a minority of people in this county who have the vaguest idea about what is going on.  If that minority wishes a voice, then that voice should be heavily weighted in any discussion of future policies of our county.

In talking with people in general, I have not met ONE PERSON who understands the impact of the Community Planning Act of 2011 on our traffic woes (see this History of Florida Growth Management, p. 17ff).  Tallahassee has much to do with counties' problems.

I took issue with last year's findings, particularly on the undefined subject of "Safety".  I take issue again with methodology of this year's report.

I await your response,

Glenna Blomquist

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

A "shocking pattern of longstanding, systematic infrastructure failures"

 9.24.19: Release detailing the recent settlement between Suncoast Waterkeeper, our co-plaintiffs and Sarasota County to address the County's failed sewage system:


September 2019 | Sarasota Bay 

Suncoast Waterkeeper
Our Children’s Earth Foundation
Ecological Rights Foundation
Suncoast Waterkeeper, Our Children’s Earth Foundation, and Ecological Rights Foundation are celebrating the third legal victory in the ongoing “Sick of Sewage” campaign focused on cleaning up Gulf Coast waters. After a series of horrific sewage spills in 2016 despoiled Tampa Bay and other local waters, the environmental groups brought suit against the Cities of St. Petersburg and Gulfport to stop serious and ongoing violations of the federal Clean Water Act. As the groups have done for similar legal enforcement campaigns elsewhere, they focused their efforts on achieving four key goals for municipal wastewater systems: (1) to de-politicize the issues by agreeing to court oversight of overdue infrastructure maintenance and improvements, (2) to provide certainty via mandatory long-term commitments and deadlines, (3) protect local waterways and (4) to ensure public transparency along the way.

During the course of the hard-fought two-year litigation against St. Pete and Gulfport, Suncoast Waterkeeper began investigating sewage spills in Sarasota County. The investigation of Sarasota County’s sewage system revealed a shocking pattern of longstanding, systematic infrastructure failures and disregard for public health and water quality in area waters. In a race to consolidate their far-flung sewage system, the County decommissioned two tertiary, or Advanced Wastewater Treatment (AWT), plants to better centralize their operations. However, the remaining plants that they increasingly relied upon employ only secondary treatment, leaving billions of gallons of highly nitrogenated wastewater as a byproduct. At the same time, demand for the reclaimed irrigation water from the County was disappearing as developers, in managing nitrogen in their stormwater runoff, turned to less polluted options, such as well-water or highly treated reclaimed water from the City of Sarasota.

Prominent Sarasota/Manatee developers

With nowhere else for the nitrogenated wastewater to go, beginning in 2013, the storage pond at the County’s largest treatment facility, at the eastern end of Bee Ridge Road, began periodically overflowing into Phillippi Creek, which flows into Sarasota Bay. To date, spills from the Bee Ridge pond have totaled over a billion gallons since 2013 on at least 394 separate days, adding over 65 tons of nitrogen into Phillippi Creek and the Bay. Meanwhile, the extensive sewage collection system was deteriorating and poorly maintained in a peace-meal fashion, resulting in periodic spills of dangerous raw sewage throughout Sarasota County. 

Though a member of the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program and Tampa Bay Nitrogen Management Consortium, the County failed to embrace data suggesting that their own sewage utility was a major contributor to increasing levels of nitrogen in Sarasota Bay and a related decline in seagrasses, important indicators of the overall health of the estuary.

Steady rise of nitrogen in Sarasota waters
from 1998-present
The environmental groups’ investigation revealed a total breakdown of communications among county staff and decision makers, despite county staff in the Stormwater Utility department expressing some early concerns. There were planning failures, operational failures, communication failures, and inexcusable failure by consecutive administrations and commissions to provide adequate oversight. The huge amount of nitrogen pollution entering Sarasota Bay Area waters from the County’s sewage and wastewater systems became Sarasota County’s dirty secret. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was aware of the problems for years, but did next to nothing in the face of increasing legal violations and environmental harm.

As a Red Tide of historic proportions wreaked havoc in the region’s coastal waterways for 16 months, the public increasingly connected the dots between devastating algae blooms including Red Tide and the man-made pollutants that fuel the algae blooms, including fertilizers, septic systems and failing municipal sewage systems. No longer placated by the mantra of “naturally occurring” offered reflexively by Governor Scott’s administration and supported by beholden science leaders like Mote Marine, the public called for action. Suncoast Waterkeeper and our co-plaintiffs demanded it and had the strength of the Clean Water Act, decades of federal law and our recent victories in Pinellas County behind us.

Sarasota County Commissioner
Al Maio
In early 2019, the environmental groups initiated a federal lawsuit under the Clean Water Act with an initial Notice including a summary of the critical problems their investigation exposed. Apparently, the County Commissioners were not aware of the crisis until receiving our initial notice letter. To their credit, the Sarasota County Commission showed a willingness to immediately work towards a solution and to avoid protracted litigation. They have been responsive to public’s calls for environmental protection and demonstrated a commitment to fixing their broken sewage system and making big investments in environmental infrastructure moving forward.

Reflecting the Commission’s commitment, County Staff, Administration, and the County Attorney’s Office worked collaboratively with the environmental groups towards solutions in a legal settlement crafted to bring the County back into compliance with the federal Clean Water Act. The settlement secures federal Court enforceable commitments for the County to implement immediate and long-term commitments to:
• end the spills to Phillippi Creek from the Bee Ridge storage pond;

• rehabilitate the aging sewage collection system throughout the County;

• upgrade the Bee Ridge Plant to Advanced Wastewater Treatment; and

• adopt plans and processes to ensure adequate capacity, management, operations and maintenance of sewage infrastructure moving forward.
The County rapidly commenced building additional infrastructure necessary to move water out of the Bee Ridge Pond so as to avoid further illegal discharges of nutrient-rich reclaimed water into the environment. As a result, when the Bee Ridge Pond began overflowing this rainy season, the County's work to start moving water before rainy season arrived helped reduce the volume of water discharged into the environment. While the County has more work ahead of it to solve its problems at Bee Ridge, it is now moving fast to take steps in the right direction.

The DEP initiated their own administrative enforcement action, despite being inactive for 6 years while receiving evidence of the Bee Ridge Pond discharges, which ultimately resulted in a Consent Order that covered a portion of the violations alleged by the environmental groups. While much improved over Governor Scott’s DEP, which consistently failed to enforce environmental laws, the DEP’s Consent Order was far less comprehensive than the settlement between the environmental groups and the County in several ways, for example:
• Settlement goes back 5 years, whereas the DEP Consent Order only goes back to 2018

• Settlement includes detailed, thorough corrective action and prospective requirements for the collection system, incorporating best engineering practices and industry standards

• Settlement includes greater/higher stipulated penalties for future spills and missed deadlines, penalties go to the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program rather than DEP

• Settlement retains Federal Court oversight and enforcement for 6 years

• Settlement includes requirements for increased public notification for future spills
The provisions for continuing jurisdiction and oversight by the federal court are particularly important to the environmental groups and their citizen members. While the County under its current leadership was responsive and thorough, embracing a renewed commitment to improving the health of our waterways and our community's environmental infrastructure, future County Commissioners and administrations might not be. By memorializing the settlement agreement in a federal Court order, this settlement preserves citizens’ rights to hold Sarasota County accountable to their commitments to protect our waterways from sewage pollution. While it will take decades to bring the system up to industry standards and spills will continue in the meantime, the County is on the right track, under federal Court order, to do what is necessary.

Original Press Release
For more information:
Justin Bloom

Monday, September 23, 2019

Pork Chop Politics in Sarasota/Manatee - Coleman

Apropos of this note of the passing of UF historian David Colburn, Liv Coleman, who teaches Political Science at the University of Tampa, and who also has run for office as a Democrat, writes:
Sorry to hear of his passing. I enjoyed his co-authored book on "Florida Megatrends" and thought it was so insightful that I held a whole political salon at my house to discuss it. 
From the article: "He reminded us that despite its name, the United States has been divided for most of its existence. The real problem is not the division, but the tendency to slam the window closed rather than listen to the voices in the noise. 
"Contrary to our angst over razor-thin election margins, Colburn’s scholarship revealed that America was often at its worse when an easy majority had its way for too long, such as the “Pork Chop gang,” conservative Democrats who dominated the Florida Legislature and fought fair reapportionment and desegregation into the 1960s. 
"Colburn was convinced that diversity was America and Florida’s exceptional strength. He also believed that the way to overcoming division was to shine light in dark corners, working on the present by helping people understand the past." 
I think that Republicans in Manatee & Sarasota have been coasting on exactly these kinds of "easy majorities" for far too long, and they have become more lax about what they will tolerate, and brazen about what they will do. That's exactly why we need to keep "shining that light" in "dark corners." That's exactly why I will throw a few elbows sometimes and be a yappy complainer too. 
A lot of the Republicans locally are absolutely slothful campaigners, who completely take for granted their voters and districts. I'm not the only one to note that in the last election cycle, the Democratic candidates around here were hustling MUCH HARDER than their Republican counterparts. 
Joe Gruters
Same goes for the local party organizations. Have you noticed that, for example, the Manatee County Republican Party's official Twitter account has not even tweeted since 2017? Their web page is barely ever updated, and they rarely post on Facebook, and when they do, it is not professional. That is a party that thinks they do not need the voters. 
And even for the more vocal segments of the local Republican Party in Sarasota, this is the party that kept around known white nationalist involved with the Holocaust denial movement Peter Gemma. This is the party that elevated Joe Gruters first to Sarasota County party chair, then to State Rep (only NARROWLY winning against Steve Vernon in the GOP primary), then to State Senate, and now to Florida GOP chair. 
Is Gruters invincible? HELL NO. 
This is my absolute favorite article in the world about Joe Gruters, and I used it in my FB post the day I announced that I was running for office. If you can't find it on the web, I suspect that is because he is probably using online reputation management companies to keep it buried far from where your Google-searching fingers can find it. Please DO NOT SHARE IT. It might be VERY VERY EMBARRASSING for him.

Joe Gruters - HT

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Rural Heritage: It's a Hootenanny at Old Miakka Oct.. 6

Manatee Commissioner: Consciousness of Public Participation

Local Government is Not a Spectator Sport

Misty Servia
Sunday, Sep 22, 2019
I believe our citizens should play a meaningful role in the decisions our Board of County Commissioners makes for the community. When the county effectively engages with residents, the result is usually a healthy partnership that tackles issues from different perspectives, yielding the best results for everyone.

Our Board recently approved a $1.5 billion budget, and there were only a handful of citizens who spoke at the numerous public meetings that started in February of this year. Approving a budget to spend our tax dollars may be the most important thing your local government does, but you wouldn’t know it if measured by the public’s interest. Take note that a workshop is planned next February to discuss reducing the millage rate. And yes, we all love a tax break, but it may also result in reduced services, which is concerning to me. How do you feel about that?

Our County has considered implementing a stormwater fee for more than 30-years and is now in a place where it just may happen. We have all experienced some degree of flooding recently, and indicators show our future storms will be even more frequent and intense. A better stormwater system can improve the red tide and algae problems too, which are becoming as common in the summer as traffic is during rush hour. But look, there are different levels of service being considered, and they all come with a price tag. Are you willing to pay for the Cadillac version, or, do you prefer the Buick?

Manatee County is considering a boat ramp parking fee, as well. If you have taken your boat to one of our ramps lately, you have likely experienced a line to launch, not to mention limited trailer parking and ramps that are in disrepair. There is no question that we need more boat ramps and have to catch up on needed maintenance. Our facilities are enjoyed not only by our residents, but visitors and charter captains who make a living on the water. Who should pay to maintain our ramps? Only those who use them? Should our residents be allowed to park for free and require the out-of-town visitors to pay? Maybe we should pay for them out of the general fund, which means everyone pays, whether you are a boater or not, but that option may not sit well with our residents who don’t even own a boat.

I created the "District 4 Citizens Coalition on Growth” to give our citizens a larger voice in their local government. The group meets the third Wednesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the Bayshore Recreation Center and discusses timely local issues. We have open seats on the coalition and members of the public are always welcome. I am proud to carry feedback gathered at this meeting to our board and share it with other county commissioners.

Let’s face it, neighborhoods gain greater control over their everyday quality of life when we all come together in discussion, and even when we disagree, we find that we have many things in common too.

Misty Servia is a Manatee County Commissioner who represents District 4. She can be reached at

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Swimming in debt - through growth

Someone might want to hand the Argus Foundation a clue:

If growth pays for itself, as we’ve so often heard in Central Florida, then local governments like Sumter County — the epicenter of The Villages’ development — must be swimming in cash. 
Instead, it’s acting like a government drowning in the costs of growth.
Sumter is so desperate for money that its five Republican county commissioners look ready to vote next week for a whopping 25.6% increase in the current property tax rate. - Orlando Sentinel

Friday, September 6, 2019

UPDATE: 9.11: Commission to unveil new district voting maps - SEE MAPS BELOW

Surprise! Surprise!

With slow and no response to public records requests and with minimal public notice, Sarasota County will unveil its proposed new District-level maps next week. All this stems from the Board's decision in April to explore reconsideration of the boundaries of the five county districts, in light of the new Single Member Voting.

Please attend the County Commission meeting Wednesday morning 9 AM:

County Administration Building
County Commission Chambers, 1st Floor
1660 Ringling Blvd, Sarasota

Why this matters: Cathy Antunes

Show your opposition to this “plan”. An Open to the Public session will 
precede the Redistricting discussion. See you on Wednesday!

 <<<<BREAKING NEWS: Here are the maps Spitzer will present Wednesday:>>>>

Kurt Spitzer
Kurt Spitzer, redistricting consultant hired by Sarasota County with a no-bid
contract, will review the “alternative” District maps created with private 
input from individual County Commissioners.
How’s that FL Sunshine Law workin’ for ya? 

Board of County Commissioners Agenda: Page 1
1. OPEN TO THE PUBLIC – (Three-minute time limit per person.)

How open is it?  From The Sarasota News Leader:
Additionally, county Media Relations Officer Drew Winchester
confirmed with staff that, as of late afternoon on Sept. 4, three of the
commissioners — Charles Hines, Nancy Detert and Christian Ziegler —
have scheduled one-on-one telephone conversations with the consultant
who is handling the redistricting initiative for the county,
Kurt Spitzer of Tallahassee. The Sarasota News Leader
Will this telephone conversations be recorded? Will it be known how long
they lasted, what was discussed?
While the consultant and commissioners huddle over the phone preparing their own maps, the information needed by and promised to the public is being withheld.

Is it ignorance or incompetence?

It isn't ignorance. The commissioners were told during the final open to the public comments on August 27 that the deliverables from Spitzer and Associates (block-level GIS data) were not publicly available.

It might be incompetence. 

County staff says, "The [block level] data was in an Aug. 2 memorandum from Spitzer to the County Commission." 

The memo, however, does not contain the county-wide block needed by the public to produce their own redistricting maps. Instead, it provides info for "key growth blocks by district."  

Despite repeated public records requests from several citizens, as of September 5, the County and Spitzer had provided block-level population data for only:
  1. 6% of the population (23,153 out of an estimated 417,000 Sarasota County residents)
  2. 1% of the blocks (92 out of about about 7,500 Sarasota County census blocks) 
Finally on Sept. 6, a public records request for block data from The Sarasota News Leader was responded to. According to the county,  the entire block data spreadsheet is now here.

By the deadline [contract deadline July 31] , just one of the deliverables below -- Part (c) -- was delivered -- two days late, on August 2.

Part (b) was provided to the public late on September 6

Spitzer & Associates has not fulfilled their Task 1 contractual obligations, and the county has been laggard in providing the data necessary for the public to prepare alternate maps. (see below)

If it's not incompetence, they know exactly what they're doing -- withholding information to prevent an informed public response to the maps being presented on September 11.

Image of districts formerly used on BCC web page


By the deadline, just one of the deliverables below -- (c) -- was provided:
Copies of Task 1 Deliverables from SC PO #193092.. Vendor: KURT SPITZER AND ASSOCIATES INC...Including:  
(a.) GIS - The 2010 and 2018 population estimates in file geodatabase or shapefile format at the 2010 Census Block level of geography. 
(b.) Spreadsheet - Block-level results will be summarized by commission district and exported to Excel format. 
(c.) Report – A narrative report describing the methodology used to update the 2010 Census data. THIS WAS PROVIDED 
(d.) Map - A “heat map” in PDF format showing 2010-2018 growth by block. It will be shaded semi-transparent with imagery as a base. Commission district boundaries will be shown. A table summarizing the population estimates by BCC District will be included on the map showing the following 2018 information:  
 BCC District number Average (mean) population  Actual population Deviation from the mean Percent deviation White population and Percent white population Black population and Percent black population Hispanic population and Percent Hispanic population Other population and Percent other population.