A Two-Generational Ticket

From Gabriel Hament

BY GABRIEL HAMENT SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY MAR 11, 2017

As we consider the eight candidates for Sarasota City Commission who have waded into the fray, bravely submitting to our bi-annual electoral process, a distinct philosophical divide has emerged.

On the one hand we have STOP!, a small, cacophonous group of activists, attempting to sway city elections based on the obscure issue of Administrative Review. Administrative Review is a process wherein professional city planners evaluate a proposed site plan and determine if it meets the city code. If a site plan meets the code it must be permitted. STOP! wishes instead to revert to a process from the past involving four public hearings, and insists it is the absence of public hearings that has resulted in more cars, rush hour gridlock and offers the Vue as their example. So soon we forget the run-down Holiday Inn on that iconic lot which greeted us as we crossed the Ringling Causeway. Let's not discount the tremendous progress the city is making. 

In all fairness let's have a look then at an example of another project shepherded through the exact public hearing process this group champions. The Kanaya, a 16-story tower built at the entrance to the historic Laurel Park Neighborhood went through two years of public hearings, a long, involved public process and yet was permitted to be built according to the code in place at that time.

By creating a metaphorical vacuum at community forums and neighborhood meetings, this group has forced any discussion of the real challenges facing working families—affordable housing for one—to the remote periphery. If allowed their way in this election, meaningful consideration regarding the financial stability of working class people in our city will be sacrificed at the alter of this cohort's self serving concern for vehicular convenience and personal aesthetic.

I submit we cannot allow one small group's fantasy, an out of touch expectation of a suburban lifestyle—wide boulevards, unlimited surface parking, and sylvan quietude—to subvert our Sarasota's true identity as an exciting, robust urban city only now hitting its post-Great Recession stride.

I urge city voters to elect policymakers who will:

  • Work collaboratively to modify the building code to boost the stock of workforce housing so people who work in the city can live here too and avoid daily multi-hour commutes. 
  • Work more closely with our world-class colleges to convince our grads to make Sarasota home and insure the economic future of all our citizens, young and older in the city at-large. 

City voters must overcome the synthetic cynicism and fear of progress propagated by STOP! and its anointed candidates. We have the opportunity to make a choice (an important one) book-ended by this vast philosophical dichotomy. Tell them with your vote, we are moving forward, and we will not stop.

A notable trait great leaders exhibit is knowing when to step back and pass the baton to the next generation. In this spirit, I ask you to cast your vote on March 14 for a cross-generational ticket and send Patrick Gannon and Hagen Brody to the runoff.

Gabriel Hament, Sarasota.

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