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SRQ DAILY Mar 28, 2020

Saturday Perspectives Edition

Saturday Perspectives Edition

"All of the usual political tools have suddenly been called into question by this insidious, invisible enemy."

- Larry Thompson, Ringling College of Art and Design
 

[Under The Hood]  Shelter Order Deserves Honest Consideration
Jacob Ogles, jacob.ogles@srqme.com

Fears of spreading a life-threatening virus have shut down our schools, many or our offices and pretty much every event of any size in Florida.

But local governments have wrestled over what to do with those individuals who will not voluntarily stay home. More than a dozen counties have instituted some type of stay-at-home order. Sarasota County, curiously, does not believe it has the legal authority to do so. And yet, Gov. Ron DeSantis has seemed content to leave decisions to local governments.

He’s caught plenty of guff for that, but if you will entertain me, I might suggest he has a point. Large parts of the Panhandle have not seen a single person test positive for COVID-19, and I’m not certain it makes sense to force people in Panama City to stay inside because several hundred people in Miami have tested positive for the illness.

That said, it’s a worthy question what stops County Commissioners in Sarasota from considering the step. As of Friday, two individuals had already died from COVID-19 in the county. That notably included Terrance McNally, an internationally celebrated playwright who penned The Full Monty, Ragtime and other classics. McNally was eulogized in The New York Times, The Hollywood Reporter and The Times of London. But he 81-year-old's death in Sarasota wasn’t enough reason to order Sarasota County’s above average age population to shelter in place.

The concern, outlined in a staff memo by County Attorney Frederick Elbrecht, seems to be that DeSantis hasn’t expressly authorized counties to issue their own curfews or to order business closures. The power can, and has, been delegated after hurricanes. But “at present, during the initial onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Governor has not issued an executive order delegating the explicit authority to impose curfews or to close or otherwise affect private business operations.”

In Collier County, commissioners just declined to impose an executive order, and at the time discussed how a similar community crisis hasn’t happened in Florida in 100 years. Then, power belonged solely with the state to impose such restrictions, but that was before the advent of home rule. Commissioners ultimately chose to table an order there, but attorneys expressed confidence they could defend an order in court.

This, of course, assumes anyone will challenge the authority of the county compared to the Governor. It strikes me immediately that there was no such concern when DeSantis rebuffed public pressure to close all Florida beaches during spring break, but instead left it to local governments.

Two things seem clear about DeSantis’ approach to this disaster so far. One is that he’s reluctant to do something that impacts all Floridians if he can help it. The other is he seems completely content to let local leaders do as they choose.

There’s a contingent of political activists who view any order from the government as a complete violation of their personal freedom, public health concerns or not. There’s also a surprising number of people who continue to treat the coronavirus like an imagined hoax, despite at last count 43 in Sarasota County testing positive for COVID-19 in the 27 days since Florida’s first coronavirus patient was treated at Doctor’s Hospital of Sarasota.

Perhaps county commissioners, like those in Collier, would ultimately side with this faction. That is the crowd most willing to show in person at hearings right now. But if so, that’s a decision local officials should make and explain to their constituents. They should not hide behind an unpopular legal interpretation when the Governor seems unlikely to challenge any decision.

Consider a stay-at-home order. At the very least, admit it’s worth a conversation.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor for SRQ Media. 

[New Solutions for a New Age]  Politics, Pandemics, and the Value of Creativity
Dr. Larry Thompson, lthompso@ringling.edu

Creativity puts no limits on who we are or what we think. Politics, by contrast, often results in rigid definitions of who we are, which often translates into what we should believe. It is rare to find room for new thoughts and ideas in today’s political discourse. Unlike at the time of our nation’s birth, when our founding fathers were some of the world’s most creative people, today’s politicians have lost sight of the value creativity can bring to the problem-solving that is so vital to democracy. Today, the search for collaborative, creative solutions is often overshadowed by partisanship and the pressure to vilify those who sit across the aisle.

This is the political climate that we face as the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has grown to worldwide prominence. Our country has been impacted by this global pandemic just as states were gearing up to hold their Democratic primary elections. As guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encouraged us to limit gatherings of people to smaller and smaller numbers, campaigns were forced to completely reconsider their engagement strategies. No longer would historical models of shaking hands and kissing babies, massive political rallies, and debates before live audiences be possible if we were to work to contain the spread of this virus. Even voting has become problematic, as fewer people want to stand in line with hundreds of others waiting to cast their ballots.

In short, all of the usual political tools have suddenly been called into question by this insidious, invisible enemy. If ever there was a time to put partisanship aside and think creatively about not just the campaign process, but also meeting the COVID-19 challenge, it is now.

One challenge of leveraging creativity, according to Nicola Brown on skyword.com, is that “creativity and the arts have a tendency to be looked at as a decorative addition on top of the critical social, economic, and political fabric of a thriving society, rather than as an essential part of the picture.” Rather than an extra nice-to-have, Brown reminds us that “creativity is closely linked to our ability to solve problems, express ourselves freely, reflect critically, and achieve personal fulfillment and self-actualization,” which she argues are “the building blocks of a society’s social, economic, and political success.”

Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College, writing for Forbes, asserts “the world needs creative thinkers in all disciplines; people who can tackle complex challenges and develop innovative solutions.” Klawe sees design thinking, a methodology that includes human-centered problem-solving, idea generation and experimentation to define and solve problems creatively as a key skill.

Certainly, candidates and campaign managers will be looking for innovative ways to get their messages out and engage with voters in exciting ways while helping to combat the spread of COVID-19. The impact of websites, blogs, video-sharing platforms, digital apps and social media, according to Diana Owen, professor of political science at Georgetown University, “have radically altered the way that government institutions operate, the way that political leaders communicate, the manner in which elections are contested, and citizen engagement.”

Will this pandemic be a watershed moment that paves the way for recognizing the value of creativity to politics? Only time will tell. Looking into our history, to our founding fathers, shows us wonderful examples of the power of creativity in politics. After all, it was these creative visionaries who imagined the foundation for this unique American democracy. As Benjamin Franklin, founding father, artist, and inventor, stated, “To cease to think creatively is to cease to live.”

Dr. Larry Thompson is president of Ringling College of Art & Design.            

[Higher Education]  SCF Provides Continuity to Students
Carol Probstfeld, presidentsoffice@scf.edu

In this unprecedented time, people need a sense of continuity and productivity to remain focused on the future. As the Coronavirus pandemic has made everything in life seem uncertain, pursuing a college degree at State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, will remain certain.

We are providing students an opportunity for personal progress and achievement by ensuring that they can continue to participate in their classes. We will continue to recruit, enroll, educate and graduate students throughout this crisis.

After a brief three-day reboot in mid-March, SCF began spring term classes again on March 19 with nearly all our course offerings online. Through an incredible, highly coordinated effort from our faculty and staff we converted about 1,800 course sections to online delivery. Normally, about 32% of our courses are delivered online. Now, we are at 97%. We will continue with online programming throughout the rest of spring term. Currently, students are still visiting each of our campuses to receive technical assistance with accessing and participating in online classes.

We have worked hard to ensure that both current and future SCF students have access to our full range of services in our expanded online environment. Some of these services include admissions services, registration and transcripts, financial aid services, academic and career advising, tutoring services, mental health counseling and disability resources. We are also continuing our retention efforts and the recruitment of new students for the upcoming summer and fall semesters. Registration for Summer 2020 is currently underway and registration for Fall 2020 opens April 6. Our call center is also operational – when students call, they are speaking with a live person. All our services can be accessed by phone, email, online and video conference.

Our ability to transition quickly to this new environment is due to several things. First, we have an incredible team of staff and faculty at SCF that is committed to the success of our students. Because of their dedication, resiliency and creativity, our business continuity plan is successful.

Five years ago, we created a vision for a virtual online campus in our 2015-2020 Boldly Engaging Strategic Plan. The goal was to provide students the ability to be fully online from recruitment to graduation with all the courses and services they needed to achieve their higher education objective. Pursuing that goal enhanced our preparation to adapt so quickly to our new situation.

The SCF Information Technology Services Department made numerous critical upgrades to ensure that the College can function and continue to deliver higher education through a natural disaster. Over the past couple of years, SCF has moved all its critical systems and services to the cloud to better serve students by providing remote online access to the resources and services they need anytime, anywhere and from any device. Our mobile app gives students quick, convenient access to registration, grades, email, the Canvas Learning Management System and tuition and fee payment.

SCF is here for our community to provide a sense of continuity, achievement and progress for our students. We will continue to provide the courses and services our students need throughout this crisis.

If you are currently a student at SCF, continue to pursue your degree. If you were planning to be a student this summer or next fall, join us. SCF is here to ensure the pathway to your future is still clear.

Carol Probstfeld is president of State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota.           

[Philanthropy]  Southeastern Guide Dogs Ease Stress Of Isolation
Titus Herman

Everywhere across the United States, the coronavirus has caused anxiety and real economic harm to people we know and love, and it has created fear for those who depend upon the services of nonprofit organizations such as Southeastern Guide Dogs.

Our organization currently provides ongoing services to 592 visually impaired individuals and veterans living and working alongside our precious guide and service dogs every day. These individuals rely on us for many things, including in-home training, dog food, preventatives, vaccinations and annual veterinary wellness visits – and we cannot turn our backs on them. Nor can we turn our backs on 256 applicants who are hoping to be matched with one of our magnificent dogs. We provide all of our dogs and services completely free of charge, with no government support, thanks to the generosity of private donors.

As frustrating as this new self-isolation period is for all of us who have never been forced into social distancing before, this time of great emotional duress also makes us more aware of the challenges our clients with disabilities experience regularly. Many have suffered years of social isolation before being matched with a guide or service dog that allows them to reengage in their community life. The difference between their worst days in the past and the challenges of today is that they have a life-transforming dog with them. They are never truly alone with one of our dogs by their side.

Thinking about this new reality of community-wide sacrifice teaches us greater human empathy. It also makes Southeastern Guide Dogs even more committed to continuing our essential work, with an even greater urgency to reach as many people in need as possible with our services.

So, we are doing our best to adapt and persevere. To protect the health of our staff and volunteers we have temporarily switched a large portion of our operation to a remote model while continuing to operate the vital components of our campus, which include the puppy nursery, veterinary center, and facilities maintenance. Our valued puppy raisers continue to provide obedience, house manners, and basic training to more than 300 dogs; and our excellent trainers, working from their home environments, continue to provide advanced guide dog and service dog training to 100 dogs. All in all, our team is ensuring the care and wellbeing of nearly 1,200 puppies and dogs.

During times of adversity like this, it is inspiring to see how people come together for the common good. We at Southeastern Guide Dogs are thankful for all of our faithful, kind and generous friends: our staff and campus volunteers; board members; puppy raisers; breeder hosts, and of course, our donors. Social connection is something we have all probably taken for granted, and today’s new reality makes us appreciate each other like never before.

One thing remains constant in this life, and that’s our bonds with our dogs. Their unconditional love, affection and loyalty will always be a bright spot in our world. I encourage each of you to stay confident, give your dog an extra hug, and know that we’ll weather this storm together.

Titus Herman is CEO of Southeastern Guide Dogs. The school has had 33 graduates in the combined Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch and Sarasota areas and 171 puppy raisers. 



[Recognition]  Jazz Club of Sarasota Presents Prestigious Satchmo Award to Rachel and Mat Domber of Clearwater-based Arbors Records

The Jazz Club of Sarasota presented its prestigious Satchmo Award to Rachel Domber and her late husband Mat, founders and operators of Clearwater-based Arbors Records, on March 12 at a reception that was part of the pandemic-interrupted Sarasota Jazz Festival. The presentation had been planned as an important part of the Jazz Club’s 40th Anniversary Festival and was hastily rescheduled as musicians and audiences departed under an advisory from governmental officials. Ed Linehan, president of the Jazz Club and managing director of the Sarasota Jazz Festival, said, “We are very pleased to honor the work of Rachel Domber and her late husband Matthew by presenting them with the Satchmo award, the Jazz Club’s highest recognition. This recognition commemorates the contributions of  jazz great Louis Armstrong, nicknamed ‘Satchel Mouth’ or ‘Satchmo. We also thank The Harold and Evelyn R. Davis Memorial Foundation, which sponsors the award in memory of Jazz Club founder Hal Davis.

“The Jazz Club created the Satchmo award in 1987 to honor those who have made a unique and enduring contribution to the living history of jazz, our original art form. I can’t think of anyone who fits that definition better than the Dombers,” Linehan said. “Through their efforts, Arbors has produced hundreds of albums since 1989, representing many classic styles of Jazz. The Arbors catalog reads like a Who’s Who of American jazz of the last half century, including recordings by our own Dick Hyman--an NEA Jazz Master--and Ken Peplowski.”

Mat Domber was a New York-based lawyer with real estate interests in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Florida. He was also a jazz fan, record collector and listener, beginning with his preteen visits to Nick’s in Greenwich Village. He and his wife Rachel founded Arbors Records as an act of generosity, creating a culture of support and kindness that continues to this day.

“We started in 1989 without thinking of establishing a record label, but only to try to give our friend Rick Fay something he could sell on the bandstand. It grew into a labor of love and we now have over 400 recordings in our catalog,” Rachel said. The impetus was their friendship with Rick Fay, an outstanding reedman, singer, and composer who had been in the music business for over 40 years, mostly as a performer at the Disney parks in California and Florida, but who had never recorded as a leader. 

For more on the Jazz Club Sarasota.

[Economic Impact]  Coronavirus Impacts Force Goodwill Manasota to Reduce its Staff

In response to the significant financial impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Goodwill Manasota has made significant staff reductions, impacting 374 employees – or 52% of its workforce – effective March 27, 2020 until further notice. The affected employees have been placed on temporary furlough. The nonprofit joins Goodwill organizations across the country in making the gut-wrenching decision to reduce their workforces until the crisis has resolved and operations stabilize. 

In just the past two weeks, Goodwill Manasota has seen a decline of 46% in sales at its retail stores, with the impact heading into the millions of dollars and climbing. After an exhaustive review of its finances and the consideration of numerous strategies to stabilize the situation, organizational leaders and the Goodwill Board realized that reducing the workforce through temporary furloughs would be the only option to ensure the doors remain open for those who have a critical need for Goodwill’s programs and services.

“This was an incredibly difficult decision but it was necessary to stabilize our social service organization for the future,” said Goodwill Manasota President & CEO Bob Rosinsky. “It is our hope and expectation that taking these actions swiftly and decisively will position us to fully reopen, resume services, and rehire those impacted when the global health crisis subsides.”  

For more on Goodwill Manasota.

[Animals]  Manatee County Animal Services aims to Clear the Shelter Offer Free Pet Food Next Week

Manatee County foster families have stepped up to help Animal Services (MCAS) nearly empty the kennel over the past week. Manatee County residents can help the shelter maintain its record low numbers in coming days. Local families have adopted all cats and fewer than 40 dogs are in need of a fur-ever home thanks to an influx of foster families helping during the COVID-19 response. MCAS Chief Sarah Brown said there's been an outpouring of local residents wanting to help during a time when the shelter is typically overflowing with animals. Brown pointed out that adopting or fostering a pet is also a good way to avoid the blues when working from home or self isolating. 

"MCAS is overwhelmed by the support of the community during this time," said Chief Brown. “So many caring individuals, opening their homes to help a pet in need. We will continue to take foster and adoptions by appointment only. We’re waiving adoption fees and providing food and supplies to our fosters, all in an effort to see more pets find homes."

MCAS to offer free pet food next week

The good news doesn't end there. On Monday MCAS will announce it is providing free dog and cat food to Manatee County residents while supplies last. The hours and location of the pet food giveaway are a way help local pet owners save money during tough times. The hours, location and other details of the pet food giveaway will be announced on MCAS's Facebook page at 5 pm on Monday, March 30.  

For more.

[Giving Back]  Call for Community Input! Suncoast Science Center Gears Up To Fabricate Face Protection Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

The Suncoast Science Center/Faulhaber Fab Lab–in partnership with a group of dedicated volunteers–is requesting input from assisted living and other non-primary healthcare facilities to determine local need for replacements for nonexistent Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Face shields to be fabricated will be similar to https://www.coxhealth.com/innovationFace masks to be fabricated will be similar to https://suncoastscience.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Joanns-face-mask-pattern.pdf.

Assisted living facilities, nursing homes and other non-primary healthcare facilities are encouraged to complete the form for face mask and shield requests here:

https://bit.ly/fablabppe (Note: URL is case sensitive)

The supply of PPE provided to healthcare workers to use while caring for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic is extremely limited and rapidly declining each day. In an effort to protect healthcare workers and patients and slow the spread of the Coronavirus, the Suncoast Science Center is seeking input from assisted living facilities, nursing homes and other non-primary healthcare facility in need of PPE alternatives like face masks or shields. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has ordered an additional 500 million surgical face masks, many of which will be provided to hospital and primary health center workers on the front lines. Healthcare workers in non-primary facilities like nursing homes and assisted living facilities could be left behind without even basic protection.

A first batch of requests will be accepted via the online form through Friday, April 3. Organizations will then be contacted upon review by Suncoast Science Center staff. A distribution plan and timeline will be determined to supply the need.

Call for Volunteers

Do you want to support this effort? If you have sewing skills or a sewing machine to use to help make masks, a willingness to help prototype and produce masks/shield, distribute masks/shields, etc, we need you! Complete this form if you’re interested in helping and staff will be in touch: https://bit.ly/fabcovidvol.

Call for Innovators

Do you have an idea for a face mask, shield or other product that could help slow or stop the spread of Coronavirus? The Fab Lab provides access to CAD and other design software, laser cutters, 3D printers, vinyl cutters, CNC routers, soldering equipment, power tools and much more. Free lab membership may be provided if you have a viable idea! Please complete this form if you have an idea: https://bit.ly/covidinnov  

[Meals for Children]  Manatee County Children Eat for Free During COVID-19 School Closures

The School District of Manatee County’s Food and Nutrition Services Department will provide children free lunch and breakfast for the next day during the mandated school closures, from Monday, March 30 through Wednesday, April 15, 2020. The free meals will be offered to kids, 18 or younger, regardless of income. Grab n’ Go meals, will be served and children will be provided lunch for the day they pick up the meals as well as their breakfast for the next day, Meals will be provided at thirty school sites and five additional community sites from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm, Monday through Friday. Parents or guardians can drive up and receive the meals without getting out of the car. Children must be in the car to receive the meals.

In addition, two Food and Nutrition Services Mobile Feeding Buses and a Caboose will deliver lunches and breakfast for the next day to children at six stops – North Locations: Turner Chapel from 11:30 am – 12:00 pm and Palmetto Youth Center in Palmetto 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm; South Bus Locations: Southeast High School from 11:00 am – 11:30 am, Bradenton Village Apartments from 12:00 pm – 12:30 pm and the DeSoto Boys and Girls Club from 1:00 pm – 1:30 pm and  Caboose Locations: Manatee Mobile Home Park from 11:30 am – 12:00 pm and City Stop in downtown Bradenton from 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm; rain or shine.

This program is designed to ensure that children have access to nutrition during the time when school lunches and breakfasts are not available. This service is not based on income status, and all children in Manatee County who are 18 and younger will be able to participate. 

This Food Service Program is part of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Summer Food Service Program. Funding for this program comes from meal reimbursements received from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.  Manatee County School District General Funds are not used for this program. 

Click for a complete list of school and community sites.

SRQ Media Group

SRQ DAILY is produced by SRQ | The Magazine. Note: The views and opinions expressed in the Saturday Perspectives Edition and in the Letters department of SRQ DAILY are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by SRQ Media. Senior Editor Jacob Ogles edits the Saturday Perspective Edition, Letters and Guest Contributor columns.In the CocoTele department, SRQ DAILY is providing excerpts from news releases as a public service. Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by SRQ DAILY. The views expressed by individuals are their own and their appearance in this section does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. For rates on SRQ DAILY banner advertising and sponsored content opportunities, please contact Ashley Ryan Cannon at 941-365-7702 x211 or via email

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