Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Board discounts voters, moves to redistrict

Sarasota County redistricting map crafted by political dirty trickster makes final cut 
Black voters worried they will be disenfranchised. 
Critics also complained about using a redistricting map drawn by a GOP operative convicted of a political dirty trick 
And concerns about flawed population data underpinning Sarasota County’s redistricting effort remain. 
Bob Waechter
But the majority of county commissioners pushed past those criticisms Wednesday and voted 3-2 to advertise two redistricting maps for a public hearing, including a map based on one drawn by former Sarasota GOP chairman Bob Waechter.
Waechter’s map was heavily promoted Wednesday by Commissioner Mike Moran, who also may have the most to gain if it is enacted. . . .
Newtown resident Barbara Langston, who is African American, complained that redistricting is “about voter suppression and it is about racism." . . . 
Nobody from the crowd spoke in favor of redistricting. 
Read More . . .

Quick cuts from the 10.30.19 Board meeting:

R.N. Collins

Lourdes Ramirez


 Adrien Lucas


Two maps chosen by Board for advertising ahead of final public hearing, and more map analysis here.

Kurt Spitzer Associates

Bob Waechter map modified by Spitzer

Redistricting Sleight of Maps - with pumpkins

The Board of Sarasota County Commissioners overrode the public input against redistricting today, Oct. 30, and voted 3-2 to proceed with advertising two maps for final redistricting consideration (Maps 2-A.1 and 4-A.1) Opposing the motion were Hines and Ziegler.

(At the Board redistricting meeting of Oct. 30, the Board accepted public input, but limited speakers to 3 minutes (normally people have 5). My talk was truncated thanks to the time crunch - here it is in full, with pumpkins - TM)

At the Board’s last public discussion, some expressed a preference for straight lines instead of wiggly lines. This is a common notion of what fair redistricting is supposed to look like. Straight lines offer the appearance of neutrality with regard to political, social, and economic conditions.

There’s more to appearances than just straight lines, however.

The maps in your packet today offer a variety of solutions to the balancing of district populations.

You have 7 maps - four earlier maps, and three maps newly adjusted to better balance the population.

There’s Map 1-A,
Map 2-A and 2-A.1
Map 3-A and 3-A.1
Map 4-A and 4-A.1

The only map that doesn’t have an updated alternative is Map 1-A.

As it happens, 1-A is the only map that doesn’t move Precinct 233, where I and thousands of other people live, from District 2 to District 1.

And as it happens, of all the District 2 precincts that could be moved into District 1, #233 has more registered republicans than any other -- 3,951.

It also has the largest total population of registered voters: 8,225 (including 2,000 independents, 2274 Democrats)

If one wanted to help a Republican candidate win District 1 in 2020, moving Pct. #233 to that district would be the strongest choice.

In short, while avoiding the appearance of finagling with wiggly lines at the micro level, 6 of the 7 maps pluck Pct. 233 wholesale from District 2 and drop it into District 1. The appearance of cherry picking has moved from the micro to the macro level. Instead of wiggly lines and cherry-picking, it’s one mighty big pumpkin being transplanted, with straight lines.

The second curious thing about Map 1-A is that it’s not been updated to achieve smaller variances. Your consultant has updated the other 6 maps to balance their populations, but not Map 1-A.

In South County, the new modifications made to Maps 2-A.1 and 3-A.1 follow the boundary of the city of North Port, and don’t split the West Villages, where people objected to being split into two districts.

As it happens, the consultant could have adjusted Map 1-A the very same way. Doing so would both have respected the wishes of the West Villagers and achieved an equalized population on a par with, or better than, the other new maps. Let’s recall: Map 1-A is the only map that doesn’t move Pct. 233 into District 1.

Failure to update Map 1-A creates the unavoidable appearance of something other than pristine neutrality. Any of these three maps could have been disadvantaged by splitting North Port and the West Villages. But only Map 1, the one least favorable to the Republican Candidate for District 1, still has this disadvantage.

The Board could fix this: Simply direct the consultant to create a “Map 1-A.1” adopt the same lines in North Port as Maps 2-A.1 and 3-A.1. With that change, those who have intensively studied the maps say Map 1-A.1 would equalize population across districts better than all the rest.

If for no other reason than for the sake of appearances, the public deserves a clear explanation: Why was Map 1-A not afforded a balancing update along with all the others? 

Doing so potentially could reduce the appearance of partisan gerrymandering that now, like a ghostly orange pumpkin, haunts this process, regardless of all the nice straight lines.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Development interests seek to protect Moran -- Herald Tribune

Development Interests, Redistricting, Water Management and the fate of the Celery Fields all converge in this excerpt from Oct. 26, 2019 Herald Tribune article entitled: Redistricting criticism mounts as big vote nears" by Zac Anderson:

         . . . [Commissioner Mike] Moran is viewed by some political observers, including GOP insiders, as being more closely aligned with the business community, including development interests.
Some believe the redistricting effort is not simply about protecting Republicans, but protecting the Sarasota County power structure and development interests.
Dist. 1 Sarasota County Commissioner Mike Moran
Moran is an insurance agent who moved to the region from Michigan in 2002 and became active in local politics, serving in a succession of roles that involved key decisions on development proposals.
A former president of the Sarasota Republican Club, Moran was appointed to the Sarasota County Planning Commission — which reviews development applications and has been a springboard to elected office — in 2012.
Rick Scott
In 2013 Moran was picked by former Gov. Rick Scott to serve on the Southwest Florida Water Management District board, another position that reviews major development proposals. Prominent developer Carlos Beruff, who is close with Scott, served on the board at the same time.
Development interests appeared to view Moran as a friend when he ran for the County Commission in 2016. They donated heavily to his campaign.
The Herald-Tribune wrote in 2016 that “Almost half of the more than $72,000 in contributions Moran’s campaign has received through July are tied to developers, attorneys who work closely with developers, other politicians, contractors, investors and real estate agents, according to campaign finance records.”
Developers who give generously to local political candidates 
“Those donations include at least $7,600 from 38 separate $200 donations (the cap for local campaign contributions) from LLCs with addresses listed at the offices of Lakewood Ranch, Schroeder-Manatee Ranch and Medallion Homes — companies owned by highly influential developers Pat Neal, Rex Jensen and Carlos Beruff.”
Waechter, his wife and corporations that Waechter controls gave a total of $1,800 to Moran’s 2016 campaign.
Waechter is a real estate investor who is aligned with key figures in the Sarasota County power structure and has been one of the most influential behind-the-scenes political players.
Moran also received extensive contributions from Sarasota businessman Jim Gabbert and his companies. After winning a seat on the commission, Moran supported Gabbert’s controversial proposal to construct a recycling facility for construction and demolition materials roughly 1,000 feet from the Celery Fields, a nature area beloved by bird watchers and other outdoor enthusiasts.
James Gabbert

Friday, October 25, 2019

Bee Ridge Wastewater Settlement Agreement Finalized

This email today from Justin Bloom, attorney for Suncoast Waterkeeper and additional plaintiffs whose wastewater lawsuit will bring advanced wastewater treatment to Sarasota County.

Bloom wrote:
Today the Federal Judge approved our settlement and dismissed the case, while retaining jurisdiction to allow us to ensure that the County follows through on the many commitments made within the settlement.  In 14 days, they start facing stipulated penalties for new spills - and failures to follow-through on all the commitment (injunctive relief) items set forth in the settlement.   
On behalf of Suncoast Waterkeeper, our co-plaintiffs Ecological Rights Foundation, Our Children's Earth Foundation, our stellar lead counsel, Kaki Schmidt, I thank you for your time and your willingness to step up and help fight to protect our waterways.  It is a big win.
Below is the title page followed by the key rulings and the key monitoring of the upgrade to the county's wastewater system at Bee Ridge Extension, which is due for completion by 2025.

We as a community owe a large debt of gratitude to Mr. Bloom and his team for their essential intervention into a longstanding ecologic and infrastructure disgrace.

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