Hyde Uncut

The Detail

BY CATHY ANTUNES SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY APR 29, 2017

The impact of dark money has been seen in our County and School Board races, but not nearly as much in the Sarasota City Commission races. Martin Hyde is running for one of the two “At-Large” Commission seats, and he personally donated $4,000 to the political action committee called “Making a Better Tomorrow.” Having researched Sarasota PACs for a number of years now, it’s the first time I’ve seen a candidate for a City or County Commission seat make such a donation. The PAC Hyde chose to fund includes $10,000 from Carlos Beruff’s company, as well as $20,000 from Benderson corporations. What does such a donation say about Hyde’s political alliances?

Influencing County Commission decisions through campaign and PAC donations has been a profitable investment for Beruff and Benderson. Beruff was able to get approval for homes on acreage previously denied for residential development due to the presence of two unlined landfills. One year after the rejection of residential development alongside the old Foxfire landfills, Beruff bought the land and the County Commission put aside any concerns about contamination and approved construction of 200 homes on the same property that was too risky to develop just one year before.

Benderson’s campaign and PAC donation have resulted in numerous benefits, including sweet pricing on 42 acres of public land just east of Interstate-75. That sale passed by a 3-2 County Commission vote, with the dissenting Commissioners citing the proposed use (a truck depot) and reduced price ($2-3 million below market value) for their denial.

A few years ago, Benderson Development negotiated a deal to purchase 11 acres at the northeast corner of Beneva and Fruitville. That location is City park land, home to many mature oak trees and across the street from a shopping center that was struggling at the time. Residents protested the sale of the City’s parkland and the deal was quashed. How would a candidate who is aligned with Benderson through a political PAC look upon the deal?

During a recent radio interview, I asked Mr. Hyde about his PAC donation. What should voters make of it? Would he be a Benderson/Beruff lapdog? Hyde was offended by the question, and went on to say he didn’t know how PACs work, that he donated to the PAC so he could get a mailer out identifying him as a Republican in the nonpartisan race.

Antunes: But you had choices. You didn’t have to give that money there.

Hyde: No I haven’t got a choice. I don’t know anything about PACs

Antunes: Why?

Hyde: I don’t know anything about that sort of stuff.

Antunes: Then why would you…

Hyde: I wanted to give money to get a mailer to go out.

Antunes: So you don’t know anything about it and you gave the money.

Hyde: No I don’t know who is involved in any these things. They gave me the name of someone…

And there’s the rub. What will Mr. Hyde choose to do when “they” ask for a favor?

Cathy Antunes serves on the board of Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government.

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