Moving Money 

When the fate of a confederate statue in Bradenton landed on Manatee County Commissioners’ plate, Charles Smith delivered more than his vote. The first-term commissioner (and first black man to serve on the board) arrived to the meeting with a $500 check already written out to help with the moving expenses for the memorial, and challenged fellow commissioners to do the same. The vote came days after Smith joined Black Lives Matter activists and others protesting for the statue’s removal, and, by the August meeting to decide what to do, he said the statue posed a safety risk for workers in the courthouse where the monument stood. Three people were arrested at the recent protest, but police had largely kept the event safe, he said, but he worried coming events could turn into the deadly spectacle experienced this fall in Charlottesville, Virginia. “If you have got vision, you can see trouble coming,” he said.  Ultimately, the county commission voted 4-3 in favor of removing the statue, but had yet to decide its new home as of press time; Smith suggested moving it near an existing monument in Veterans Park, if supporters of the statue view it as a tribute to soldiers rather than the cause of slavery. But it will take a little more money to complete the move, since the memorial broke in half as county workers took it down in the night.

Isn’t That Special

State Rep. Alex Miller in August sent the Gulf Coast into off-year election convulsions with her decision to resign her state House seat. “The truth is I misjudged the time commitment it would take from both my growing business and my two teenage boys. I have learned firsthand that single moms today (and dads!) can ‘have it all’ but unfortunately they cannot do it all well, simultaneously,” she wrote in a Facebook post. She won praise from colleagues like House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who was “sad to see her go,” and Rep. Joe Gruters, who called her a “rockstar” during her short time. But with a special election looming to fill her seat, those seeking to succeed her took little time to move. James Buchanan, who previously planned to seek Jim Boyd’s Bradenton-based House seat when he retires next year, decided to pursue Miller’s post instead, bringing with him $163,000 already raised for a race. Libertarian Alison Foxwall also announced, hoping the special election dynamics would let a third-party candidate squeeze in. And Sarasota Democrats explored options with a number of candidates living in the reddish-purple district, including attorney Morgan Bentley and consultant Jodean Letshert, wondering if the party could pull a pickup at a time when Republican President Trump posts poor approval ratings.



With a post-recession building boom underway, government officials can again enjoy the almost-forgotten ritual of the all-day public hearing. Complex zoning changes and development plans, especially regarding sensitive or expansive proposals, can sometimes lead to lengthy meetings, as parades of consultants and mobs of opponents take turns pleading their cases to commissioners and council members. But during the housing recession, such marathon sessions became a thing of legend. Perhaps no greater tell of a market rebound could be seen than on Aug. 23, when both the Manatee and Sarasota county commissions held special meetings with a single item on the docket and still couldn’t make it home before prime time. Sarasota leaders dealt with a TST Ventures proposal for a recycling plant near Celery Fields, a now-popular place for bird watching and ecotourism. After a hearing ran from 9am until 7:30pm, commissioners ultimately sided 3-2 with opponents of the project, rejecting the plan. County Commissioner Nancy Detert, who made the motion to kill the proposal, said it was the community desire to keep that land free of industry that made the difference. Developers 20 years ago might have argued that with so little happening around the area, a plant with heavy manufacturing functions would fit in there, but today was a different story “You missed the market,” she told TST representatives. In Manatee County, meanwhile, commissioners there listened to a complex Medallion Home proposal to build Aqua By The Bay, a seven-phase development on 529 acres. The Aug. 23 meeting actually marked the second full day of discussion on the controversial proposal, and commissioners still delayed a decision until late September.



A ghost of the 2016 election cycle haunted Manatee County School Board Member Dave “Watchdog” Miner when the Florida Election Commission found he failed to properly complete campaign finance reports last year. Opponent Misty Servia, who failed to oust the incumbent in November, filed a complaint with the state oversight authority over misreporting contributions, and in August the state fined Miner $300 for the oversight. But a more surprising element of the modest punishment? County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh took to Facebook to spread the word about the finding. The two don’t serve on the same board, but the county commission and school often interact with one another, so it seems likely the two county officials will find themselves addressing community issues together in the next year, and both were just re-elected to four-year terms.