Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Kirschner: County Commissioners, war chests, empty promises


Kelly Kirschner: Why single member district voting makes sense in Sarasota County:
You don’t have to go far to see what lots of money in local, general elections look like. Just examine the County Commission. All five county commissioners were elected with war chests of cash, funded primarily by the development community. 
Mike Moran and Al Maio both voted for
Gabbert's dump and Siesta Key changes
County residents who live on Siesta Key and adjacent to the Celery Fields have felt the sting when their “district representatives” vote against the overwhelming will of their constituents — doing so with impunity, as these commissioners are elected by all voters in the county. This allows them to escape the accountability of their district constituents. 
They are then buoyed by copious amounts of cash from the development community, which their votes consistently serve. This allows them to dwarf political opponents as they run campaigns that are light on substance and heavy on tired, partisan appeals littered on jumbo postcards, yards-signs, and billboards across the vast swath of Sarasota County. 
He concludes:
. . . vote “Yes” on the County Commission “single-member districts” amendment 
Full column here. Some illustrative examples of a failure of accountability here.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Rick Scott scuttled new water rules

Editor:
About a decade ago, the state of Florida recognized that nutrient levels were increasing in our waterways and that typical stormwater ponds installed to mitigate nitrogen runoff were not as effective as had been presumed.
As a result, the Department of Environmental Protection, along with all of the state’s water management districts, engaged the University of Central Florida and a technical advisory committee to update the stormwater regulations to reduce nitrogen and phosphorous runoff to our waterways including our bays, the Gulf and the ocean. (See this revealing study)
This is important because these nutrients are the fuel that feeds the harmful red tide and blue green algae blooms.
The state’s effort culminated in drafting legislation and a 400-page statewide stormwater treatment rule manual which was slated for public hearings and adoption in 2011.
With the election of Rick Scott, this was abandoned under his short-sighted sound bite: “Environmental rules kill jobs.”
Fast forward to 2018 and the consequences of the ever-increasing nutrient fuel for harmful algae is all too clear.

Siesta Beach 2018
Not only has our environment been tragically impacted but so has our economy. Tourism is down, fishing and boating are down, restaurants are limping along, and real estate values and sales have been impacted.
Elections and resulting policies have consequences. We need to elect leaders who understand that Florida’s enviable quality of life and economy are dependent on a healthy environment. And the implementation of preventative measures such as the Statewide Stormwater Treatment Rule will reduce future taxpayer retrofit expenditures.
Edie Driest
North Port

See also: Thaxton on Red Tide

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

This could be you

A large hall -- standing room only. A developer's representative is making the case for a big new project with far more density and intensity than the neighborhood can handle. People are aghast. They protest. The developer's proposal goes to the Planning Commission, then to the Board of County Commissioners, where it is approved.

Sound familiar?

If this is happening to your community, you're not alone.

Benderson "Siesta Promenade" Neighborhood workshop
Aggressive developer encroachment, county complicity, neighborhoods suffer

The 2050 Comprehensive Plan was designed to temper the pace, density, existential impacts and economic burdens of big-money development. It stood for a shared sense of responsible, intelligent growth.

Throughout Sarasota County, however, elected and appointed officials are offering concierge services to powerful developers. They bend, break, or eliminate rules intended to protect the public from oversized developer impacts. On Nov. 6, you can turn this around.

Thousands of homeowners are in the same predicament. Here are a few examples:

Arbour Lake 
Reserve RZ 18-09

STOP BOLEYN RD REZONE  

A neighbor: "This subject parcel already has a recorded, perpetual conservation easement and a binding site plan of 25 homes, but they want almost three times more! Do the words “perpetual” and “binding” have any meaning at all?

"If conservation protections can be extinguished with the stroke of a pen, where does that leave the public trust?"  More here.

Oct. 24th, 9 a.m. -- Cancelled until further notice
County Commission

Benderson is asking for density 65% over what they would be allowed, with heights up to 80', with 414 apartments, 140,000 sq ft of retail and a 130 room hotel.. . . Stickney and 41, the gateway to Siesta Key is impassable in season, and already is a threat to the health, safety and welfare of the residents in the general area. Additionally, Benderson is feeding their traffic through a quiet residential area. -- Sura Kochman
Fight over proposed mixed-use development heats up in Sarasota
      Planning Commission - 11.15.18 5 p.m.
      County Hearing - 12.12.18  9 a.m.
Sign the Siesta Promenade PetitionBlock Benderson


Grand Lakes: a 1,097-home cul de sac
  • Rezone Oral Arguments 11.14.18
  • Administrative Hearing  12.4-5.18

“Pat Neal’s Grand Lakes project, will impact homeowners’ rights in Serenoa, Serenoa Lakes, and the Ibis Street area with little regard for our safety and land values.

Growth is being allowed before safe and sufficient traffic management capabilities are in place.  The safety of thousands of children and their parents who use Twin Lakes Park will also be impacted. 

Neal’s changes to Sarasota 2050 create urban sprawl.  The commissioners clearly have little or no regard for the rights of taxpayers or their own official plan for long term growth. It is a shame when citizens have to dig into their own pockets just to make sure the planning officials follow their own rules."  Serenoa Lakes President Dave Anderson.


=====



County commissioners decided to amend the county’s 2050 growth plan to allow the owners ... to create 9,344 homes on the land, roughly 5,500 to 6,300 more than the guidelines permit.


“Twenty-fifty doesn’t work for us as it was meant to,” said Jim Turner, one of the property owners. The characteristics of the land referred to as the Clark Road Properties make it tough to meet the density requirements, he said. Herald Tribune



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"What you in fact are planning is a slow motion car wreck -- a collision of industry and human lives that will imperil people, property, and community."  - Fresh Start







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Nokomis: Prime Public Land Giveaway

Nokomis Area Civic Association"How can we believe, trust, and have faith in these individuals and the institutions they represent when we know the truth about their thinking and lack of candor?" 

Prime land handed to Sheriff for garage yet we have a budget shortfall necessitating the sale of public lands at the Celery Fields?





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Venice Regional Hospital Site


East Venice residents push back on proposed hospital near Jacaranda, I-75 "Neighbors...have opposed the re-designation of Venice Regional’s chosen site as commercial rather than moderate-density residential, arguing that the extra traffic and noise of a medical campus will have adverse effects. But the county Planning Commission and staff have recommended approval." Petition opposing Venice Regional site

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Tourism money reallocated for stadium repairs

The Sarasota County Commission on Tuesday decided to shift money from the tourism promotions budget to pay for repairs on the deteriorating Ed Smith Stadium, despite pleas from local merchants devastated by toxic red tide who claim the marketing money is vital to keeping their businesses alive. (Herald Tribune)

 If the road is NOT REBUILT, SARASOTA TAXPAYERS ARE EXPECTED TO HAVE TO SPEND OVER $5,000,000 (Five Million Dollars) JUST TO PROTECT THE VERY SAME DEVELOPER'S LAND WHO OPPOSES THE PROJECT. ReopenBeachRoad.Org


Medallion Home, a Manatee-based homebuilder owned by Carlos Beruff, filed a request with Sarasota County planners in October to rezone the 49-acre course for more housing density. Previous attempts to rezone the golf course failed, but Gulf Gate homeowners fear Beruff’s political influence and the current county commission’s pro-growth stance could make this attempt different. (Herald Tribune)




=====

Astoundingly, a company representative told our current crop of mostly developer-hugging commissioners that Whole Foods really needs to pave that wetland because, golly, there is just no other site that would do around here. That’s right, there’s no other possible place Whole Foods could build!

I wish I could report that the Sarasota County commissioners all responded in skeptical unison and shouted, “Oh come off it. You think we are that stupid? - Tom Lyons

=====

Developer Kompothecras gets OK for big zoning change on Siesta Key

Opponents claimed the zoning change opens the floodgates for more developers to litter the skyline and compromise the island’s tranquility. Traffic would become worse and potentially dangerous; ambulances would experience life-threatening delays. Herald Tribune   

=====


Nathan Benderson Park under construction 2013 
The still unsustainable private entity that runs Nathan Benderson Park . . . outlined to the Sarasota County Commission several ways [it] is making headway to formulate a business strategy to become self-sufficient to avoid another subsidy from the county. The commission in June granted SANCA a $400,000 subsidy to keep the organization afloat beyond Oct. 1, when the county was to cease covering costs of personnel and events. Herald Tribune


The Benderson rowing park has come under strong criticism from Sarasota residents who say the financing "partnership" went terribly awry.

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Sarasota County turns ownership of parks to cities, and its an expensive headache

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) - Sarasota County is handing over control of many of its public parks back to the cities and it is causing quite a headache.
In the city of Sarasota, taxpayers are being met with sticker shock because many of the parks are in disrepair.
For the past 30 years, Sarasota County has maintained virtually all parks county-wide. So it came as a surprise a year ago when the county decided to save money by giving the parks back to the cities. News Channel 8.

Instead of facing facts, finding gumption, and developing a reliable and sustainable revenue stream, the county is cutting services, selling off public lands, and fobbing off responsibilities it once ably handled. Why?

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Here's the thing:

Many who deeply care come to the public hearings, wear green, red or blue, bring signs, speak their minds, and experience Full-Frontal Board Indifference for their pains. Some leave thinking their failure was their fault.

This is a county-wide pattern -- ongoing for years. Our collective awareness of this is fragmented because each community experiences it within its own boundaries. They don't see the many other citizen-voters experiencing brazen disregard for the public good.

And it's all for the same reason: The people placed in power -- not all, but most -- are there at the pleasure of the wealthiest land gamblers in the county. 

Big 5 developers
These players have the resources to dilute regulation, lower impact fees, and weaken public oversight that could put a crimp in their business models. They like their government small and weak.

Moran     Caragiulo      Detert            Maio         Hines
The failures of planning, the decisions incrementally eroding our Comprehensive vision, all the sorry excuses made while politely declining to stand up to supersized projects that enrich the developers at the expense of the quality of life around them -- all rest on this refusal to work for the public.

In the coming election, use your vote, informed by the collective experience of your neighbors around the county, to bring new voices and new vision onto the Board -- candidates that will work for the public interest.

Actualize your power.

It's your call - if you Vote.

=====

November 6th is almost here.

Inform your neighbors.
Support intelligent growth policies.
Vote for candidates who will: 
       
 - Reject rampant growth. 
Protect the environment.
Respect the people.


Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The case for Single Member District Voting

Attorney Dan Lobeck lays out the case for Single Member District Voting to the Board of Sarasota County Commissioners. His comprehensive discussion is followed by other speakers.

 

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Chapman: Date Change Means Pro-Development, Partisan Takeover

From Susan Chapman, published in SRQ

Having followed the “Change the Date” referendum since I was first approached by paid signature collectors, I have observed that the supporters of this ballot measure characterize it as increasing turnout in the November election. The flyers, the robo-calls, the speeches, the letters and the columns NEVER mention the August election, which has notoriously poor turnout, and which is notoriously partisan due to the closed primary.

As a supporter of nonpartisan local elections, I am offended and repelled by these deceptive tactics. In fact, I wonder if this is not really about voter turn-out but, rather, about special interest control of the election process.

Much has been written about the funding for this initiative, which comes from groups that support fewer regulations on developers. Indeed, the real divide in this City is not political party. It is between groups that favor few regulations on developers and groups that favor regulation that enhances livability and predictability of development. Often, it is said to be developers versus the neighborhoods, or the pejorative, NIMBY.

In the past, City elections have favored grassroots candidates who develop community support through civic activism and service on voluntary city advisory boards. Those are candidates who walk neighborhoods and participate in numerous candidate forums to meet voters and to win their support. Often, candidates have served as neighborhood leaders before seeking election to the City Commission. As City elections become more partisan, the focus becomes party loyalty and campaign contributions.

Sarasota County has partisan elections. It is common for the candidates, notably Republican candidates, to rely upon obscene amounts of bundled contributions from development interests. When development issues come before the County Commission, hundreds of citizens appear in hopes that their concerns are heard, only to be met with deaf ears. These developer candidates do not attend candidate forums. They do not need to do so. The payback is with their votes on development issues. The same groups that support the non-responsive County candidates are funding the “Change the Date” initiative.

Despite my concern about the loss of nonpartisan elections, I am grateful to the Democratic Party. Without the opposition of the Democratic Party to this takeover of City elections, there would be no opposition at all.

Citizens are more and more concerned that our City is over-developed. Do not be fooled.

“Change the Date” is really a takeover attempt by developers. Vote “No” to stop it.

Susan Chapman served on the All-America City Team in 2006, as chair of the Sarasota County Civic League, the Coalition of City Neighborhoods, the Hudson Bayou Neighborhood Association, and the City Planning Board. 

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Save our rural heritage and canopy oak trees!


A developer is petitioning to rezone 49 acres of land on Boleyn Road, a dead-end, non-arterial road to a cluster home development of 70 homes.

This property floods - badly!! Why would anyone want to build on this land? 


  • Surrounding this property is the Palmer Farms subdivision, a well-established neighborhood consisting of homes on 5 acres. The proposed dense cluster-home development is not compatible with the existing land use pattern of one house per 5 acres and is definitely not a reasonable transition.
  • The Comprehensive Plan supports preserving the rural lifestyle in the Rural Heritage area; however, that does not stop developers from trying to chip away and away at our community to erase the unique character of our neighborhood and Sarasota! It’s these special enclaves that set Sarasota above the rest. 
  • This subject parcel already has a recorded, perpetual conservation easement and a binding site plan of 25 homes, but they want almost 3 times more! Do the words “perpetual” and “binding” have any meaning at all? Much of the new development contemplated out east of I-75 include conservation easements/or restrictions. 
  • If those conservation protections can be extinguished with the stroke of a pen, where does that leave the public trust?
  • Boleyn Road is a designated Canopy Road. If you ever travel Debrecen Road off Palmer, you can’t miss the beauty of these stunning oak trees. In order to build 70 homes, our canopy road will have to be brought up to county standard-- putting beautiful ancient oaks at risk due to road widening and damage to their roots.
Boleyn Road

Please come support us Oct. 24, 9 am, at the Sarasota County Commission meeting at 1660 Ringling Blvd. Please wear green. 

Please email our Sarasota County Commissioners asking them to DENY RZ 18-09. Thank you! 

Visit palmereastgroup.org for more info


Monday, October 15, 2018

County, State and Federal Emergency Service

Sarasota County Emergency Management

Sarasota County Emergency Shelter/Evacuation Inf





FEMA ASSISTANCE

To apply for FEMA assistance visit this site: or call 1-800-621-FEMA (1-800-621-3362) TTY: 1-800-462-7585. Go to link to find the nearest FEMA Disaster Recovery Center.

EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE

If you need emergency help call 911.

BASIC SUPPLIES

If you need supplies, such as food, water, or ice, please contact your county emergency management site or by phone at (850) 815-4001 for the location of the nearest distribution center. Your county emergency management can provide up-to-date information about shelters and local distribution centers for food and supplies. See also Florida Disaster.org.

HELP FOR SENIORS

If you know of a senior who needs assistance call the Florida Department of Elder Affairs hotline at 1-800-96-ELDER (1-800-963-5337). To report elder abuse, call 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873).

HELP FOR VETERANS

Veterans in need of assistance or in need of their medication can contact the Veteran Disaster Hotline at 1-800-507-4571 or go to any VA medical facility for assistance.

MENTAL HEALTH

If you or someone you know is experiencing emotional distress please call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained counselor. You may also visit this SAMHSA site for more information about managing stress after a disaster and talking with children about traumatic events.

DIALYSIS

To find a dialysis center in your area visit: http://www.dialysisunits.com/. Patients of DaVita Dialysis may contact 1-800-400-8331 to find the nearest Dialysis Center.

MORTGAGE RELIEF

To find out if you qualify for temporary mortgage relief, visit the Freddie Mac website, the Fannie Mae website, or by phone at 1-800-2FANNIE (800-232-6643). Contact the Federal Housing Finance Agency here.

You may also contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to find out if you qualify for any hurricane related help with your mortgage or mortgage insurance. Contact HUD about disaster assistance here.

TAX RELIEF

Taxpayers in affected areas may be eligible for tax relief from the IRS. To learn more about IRS assistance go here.

DISASTER RECOVERY LOANS

The U.S. Small Business Administration is providing various disaster loans to qualifying Floridians. More information about SBA disaster loans can be found here. The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides loans to qualifying individuals, businesses, and communities after disasters. For more information go here, or contact the USDA office in Florida at: (352) 338-3400.

DISASTER UNEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE

Floridians who are unemployed as a result of a disaster, and who are ineligible for regular state unemployment insurance, are encouraged to apply for Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) through the U.S. Department of Labor. Go here for additional information about DUA, or contact the U.S. Department of Labor by phone at 1-866-487-2365.

HURRICANE RESPONSE HIRING

The U.S. Small Business Administration is hiring a variety of temporary positions located throughout areas affected by recent disasters. More information here. For FEMA hiring visit this page.

FEMA ASSISTANCE

For in-person assistance with storm related questions, visit your local FEMA Disaster Recovery Center. For a list of centers in your area visit this page or call 1-800-621-FEMA (1-800-621-3362) TTY: 1-800-462-7585.

Be aware of SCAMS: Federal and state workers never ask for or accept money, and always carry identification badges. There is no fee required to apply for or to get disaster assistance from FEMA, or the State of Florida. If you suspect fraud call FEMA's Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721, or the Florida Attorney General fraud hotline at 1-866-966-7226.

RESOURCES

Emergency Assistance 9-1-1

Local resources (food, shelter, childcare,) 2-1-1

Food, water, ice distribution 850-815-4001, TDD/TTY: 1-800-226-4329

Florida County Emergency Management Offices statewide

Sarasota County Emergency Shelter/Evacuation Inf


Shelters Open Statewide

Florida Highway Conditions, or dial 5-1-1 or *FHP (347)

Florida Elder Affairs Hotline 1-800-96-ELDER (1-800-963-5337).

Veteran Disaster Hotline , 1-800-507-4571.

Disaster Distress Helpline (for emotional distress) 1-800-985-5990, or text TalkWithUs to 66746

Blue Tarp Roofs (Army Corps of Engineers) 1-888-ROOF-BLU

FEMA: 1-800-621-FEMA (1-800-621-3362) TTY: 1-800-745-0243

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Thaxton on Red Tide: Sarasota News Leader




Educating the public about how to reduce nitrogen in waterways a key to mitigating red tide blooms, former county commissioner says


Replacement of septic tanks and upgraded stormwater systems also would make big impact, Jon Thaxton tells Siesta Key Association members 

Former County Commissioner Jon Thaxton addresses Siesta Key Association members on Oct. 4. Rachel Hackney photo

Education is perhaps the biggest key to mitigating red tide blooms, former Sarasota County Commissioner Jon Thaxton told about 45 people at the Oct. 4 Siesta Key Association (SKA) meeting.
“I think ignorance is probably our greatest enemy in this fight,” he said.
Thaxton acknowledged that he was one of the primary proponents of the county’s ban on nitrogen-based fertilizer use during the rainy season each year, as well as the force behind creation of the county’s Stormwater Utility, which was the first in the state.
The nitrogen human beings add to the environment is one of the major feeders of the algae that causes red tide, Karenia brevis, he pointed out.
In response to questions from audience members, Thaxton suggested that county staff could put notices in utility bills to remind customers each year of the nitrogen fertilizer ban from June through September. He called that a “really, really simple way to get the messaging out.”
When one audience member questioned whether law care company employees adhere to the county’s ordinance, Thaxton replied, “I have less of a concern with the professionals than I do with the non-professionals.”
People who are in the law care business have to take a course that explains the facets of the county’s regulations, he pointed out.
Then he invited the audience members to visit a store such as Lowe’s or Home Depot and look at “these mountainous stacks of fertilizer.” If they went back four days later, all of it would be gone, he added, with homeowners primarily having been the purchasers.
Thaxton said people think using more fertilizer is better, likening that to the rationale a person who feels poorly often utilizes: If one aspirin will help, “two pills will make me feel great.”
Yet, Thaxton explained, “Over-fertilizing actually harms the lawns.”
Much better enforcement of county regulations would help with red tide, too, he continued. However, he cautioned that enforcement without education angers people and makes them even less likely to follow the rules.
“Today, you will hear no state or local elected official looking to compromise the integrity of any rule, law or ordinance that protects our waterways,” he pointed out. Yet, when the Gulf of Mexico once again is clear, he added, efforts will resume to reduce pollution prevention.
“As a community,” Thaxton said, “we need to remember the suffering that we have now. … This is a systemic, land-use created issue.”


This is a Karenia brevis cell. Image courtesy of Mote Marine Laboratory

As a senior vice president for community investments with the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Thaxton reported, “We are already starting to see evictions and children missing school” because of the downturn in business resulting from national publicity about the current red tide bloom, which worsened this summer. In another 30 to 60 days, he added, he believes more families will lose their homes, as many people working in service industry jobs have lost income.
“You have yet to see the economic impact of this red tide,” Thaxton said. If the current bloom subsides, and the area experiences no problems for the next three to four years, he predicted it would take that long for the economy to recover.
The feeding of the algae
“Red tide is always in the Gulf of Mexico,” Thaxton explained. “The blooms come and go.” What makes them worse — such as the one Southwest Florida and the Panhandle and Palm Beach County have experienced, he continued — is the nitrogen-rich water the algae feeds on as it comes near the shoreline.
“If you have this toxic organism and you are now actually feeding it,” he said, the bloom “is now going to be significantly more intense” and cover a larger area of the coast.
Some researchers believe that nitrogen from the decomposing fish killed by Karenia brevisalso has been feeding the algae, Thaxton noted.


SKA members listen to Jon Thaxton’s remarks on Oct. 4. Rachel Hackney photo

Leaking septic tanks are a source of the nitrogen along with fertilizers, he pointed out.
Robert Luckner, a member of the SKA’s Environmental Committee, noted that when the county won voter support in 2009 for the most recent penny tax to support a variety of infrastructure projects, about $20 million of the resulting revenue was to have been put toward new sewer systems to replace septic tanks. Yet, Luckner said, based on research he has undertaken, less than one-quarter of that money has been spent on that initiative since 2009.
(In the 2019 fiscal year budget, which the County Commission adopted on Sept. 27, $32.5 million has been allocated to a variety of wastewater projects, including more septic tank replacements. In an update provided to the board during a May 25 budget workshop, staff proposed slightly less than $2.5 million just for the septic tank replacement program, with the funds coming out of surtax revenue and income from utility payments. The county has budgeted another $2,390,000 for stormwater projects. The fiscal year began on Oct. 1.)
Unfortunately, Thaxton told Luckner, in the 1960s and 1970s, the county paid the “lion’s share” of the expense for new developments. It was cheaper to put in septic tanks, he continued, than to build sewer systems. Although the federal government began providing funds in the 1970s for central sewer systems, Thaxton added, county leaders waited until the 1990s to “really aggressively begin removing septic tanks,” and by that time, the federal assistance had ceased.
Thus, Thaxton said, county taxpayers and residents with septic tanks have had to bear most of the cost for the conversions to central sewer systems.
County Commission Chair Nancy Detert recently told him, he said, that the allocation for such conversions in the county will end around 2020 or 2022, “and we still have a lotof septic tanks that are in the water table, which is really a shame.”


This section of the updated Sarasota County Capital Improvement Program proposed for 2019, as of May, lists septic tank replacement initiatives, among others. Image courtesy Sarasota County

In response to another question, Thaxton said that replacing the oldest septic tanks with central sewer systems would have “a huge impact. … All the barrier islands should be a priority area” for the endeavor, he added.
Other efforts that would be very helpful, Thaxton continued, would be the updating of stormwater runoff regulations and a review of land development regulations to determine other potential mitigation measures.
Stormwater systems remove only 40% of the nitrogen and phosphorous before the water makes it to the bays and the Gulf, he explained. If improved systems could increase that to 60%, he pointed out, that would have a significant impact.
“I believe all of this can happen without impeding any of the economic development, growth, commerce that we have. … It’s just about doing something a little bit better.”
Yet another recommendation Thaxton offered is making the collection of data a priority. Then scientists would be able to show the most cost-effective ways to keep the largest portion of man-made nitrogen out of the waterways. “Right now, there’s no focus on that at all; there’s just not.”
One audience member noted that he recently had learned that scientists have developed methods for identifying specific sources of nitrogen in the water.
“I don’t like pointing fingers,” Thaxton replied.
However, Thaxton continued, the City of Venice is looking at using meters at its eight major stormwater outfalls into the Gulf of Mexico, so city staff members can record water quality and water quantity data in real time. They could use the information to detect how much nitrogen is going into the Gulf, he added, as well as the types of nitrogen.
Not all of the approximately nine different types, he said, serve as food for the red tide algae.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Proposed Sale of Quad Parcels begs important questions

Sarasota commissioners keep talking about selling public lands -- Commissioner Maio has repeatedly said he wants to sell all three "Quad" parcels to private developers. But the reasoning remains clouded in vague and preemptive assumptions. After reading the thorough and fair Sarasota News Leader story regarding the public "Quad" parcels near the Celery Fields, a few of these assumptions of the Board seem worth questioning:

1. Surplusing public land to meet short term budget shortfalls is egregiously short-sighted public policy. Is it in fact public policy? Or, is it this Board's tactical avoidance of confronting economic crisis head on? If we accept this dodge to avoid raising taxes, what happens after all the valuable public land is sold? The same unpleasant remedies will then apply - impact fees, taxes, etc. All the sale of our public lands does is postpone an unavoidable political quandary. Another way of putting it: The Board's "policy" is to cannibalize our public property for political expediency, because Sarasota's surplus lands policy holds them harmless to do so.


Fruitville Initiative near I-75
2. A crying need for ILW could easily be solved in a better location: The Fruitville Initiative contains 200 acres with the same MEC land use designation as our public parcels have. These lands could be more sensibly be rezoned for ILW (Light Industrial and Warehousing) on decent roads in a new area near the highway. Are certain developers of industry putting pressure on their friends on the Board because they know they'll get ILW land cheaper if the Board does the rezone and sells our public land?




3. What ILW shortage? Drive up Bell Rd. near the quad parcels and see the "now leasing" signs:





Thursday, October 11, 2018

Astroturfing Sarasota


Astroturfing is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization (e.g., political, advertising, religious or public relations) to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by grassroots participants. Wikipedia

A group is buying ads on Facebook to mimic the look and style of STOP! - a Sarasota civic group that has worked to put residents back into the city of Sarasota's planning process.
Yourobserver.com: A new political group, whose name includes the word “STOP!” in all-capital letters with an exclamation point, says it’s rallying against uncontrolled growth and the pervasive influence of developers on local officials. 
The group is called “STOP! Stealing Our Votes,” a political committee formed to campaign against a proposed county charter amendment that would create single-member districts for the Sarasota County Commission. Ahead of the November referendum, the group has paid for Facebook ads that claim big developers are backing the amendment. 
All of this is a source of concern for a different group: STOP!, the citizen activist group formed in 2016 to advocate for changes to the city’s development regulations. On Wednesday, STOP! issued a press release accusing STOP! Stealing Our Votes of intentionally misleading voters with its name and messaging.
The civic STOP! group has returned fire with its own "STOP! Stealing Our Name! blitz:


Who are the operatives behind the Astroturf? Not surprisingly, it's a familiar Sarasota claque that is opposed to lots of things, but NOT to developers.
Yourobserver: [Russ] Bobbitt, president and CEO of the Purmort & Martin Insurance Agency, claimed the political committee represented a broad coalition of opponents to the proposed charter amendment. He declined to name any other individuals connected to the group. The political committee has not yet filed a financial report with the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections.
We can update: The committee has now filed a financial report -- the "broad coalition" turns out to be the usual mokes:


The Argus Foundation often speaks of its leadership, vision, and high-minded dedication to the betterment of Sarasota. More astroturfing?



Tuesday, October 9, 2018

CONA Sarasota Forum Oct. 8: Commission Race and Single Member Districts

Update: Go here for video of the single member vote debate and condidate panels from CONA's October meeting. 

MondayOctober 82018
        -  general election forum  - 


county commission races
single member districts

     
  All candidates competing on the general election ballot for our county commission districts have been invited to participate in the CONA forum on October 8, 2018 that also will address a ballot initiative of particular interest to county voters. The forum will be divided into two panels.  
            
  The first panel will feature Jack Brill and Dan Lobeck in a discussion of an initiative on the ballot that voters will consider regarding a change of county government form, from at-large election to single-member-district election of commissioners
          
  The second panel will combine county commission candidates Ruta Maria Jouniari and Christian Ziegler of the district 2 race with Wesley Anne Beggs and Alan Maio of the district 4 race.
    
  Written questions may be submitted in advance or at the meeting to be included, as time allows, following the questions posed by our moderator.  

     
  Candidates appearing on our ballots for any races are welcome to attend the social before the meeting in order to make contact with voters and to distribute literature and yard signs, even if not scheduled as a member of a panel for the forum. Information about initiatives appearing on the ballot also may be provided to inform voters. 
              
  The meeting will open with brief neighborhood updates about their issues, including Chris Bales on Arbor Lake PreserveBen Cannon on Bath and Racquet ClubSura Kochman on Siesta Promenade, and Tom Matrullo on the Celery Fields.
                                                                         
  See www.conasarasota.org/meetings.html for more information.
               
social 6:30 p.m. -  meeting 7:00 p.m.

        
neighbors helping neighborhoods since 1961
                      
anniversary party  -  honoring John McCarthy  -  November 5, 2018
make your reservation at the meeting
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information is on the 'contact us' page of our web site
                                                 
 
CONA meetings are free and open to the public as well as members of the more than seventy associations the organization represents and its individual members. Unless otherwise noted, the meetings are held at the Sarasota Garden Club, 1131 Boulevard of the Arts in Sarasota, which is at the intersection of Tamiami Trail, south of the Municipal Auditorium. Parking and the entrance are reached from Van Wezel Way. Socials precede the meetings at 6:30 p.m., the meetings begin at 7:00 p.m.