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SRQ Daily Jul 11, 2015

Saturday Perspectives Edition

Saturday Perspectives Edition

"The question is how we create more opportunities for each of our citizens to embrace their talents, both astounding and banal, and be appreciated for the human beings they are beyond the examples of perfection we think they should be. "

- Steve McAllister
 

[The Report]  Homeless Piano Man, Reflecting on Conflict
Susan Nilon, susan.nilon@gmail.com

It was just two weeks ago that Donald Gould was just another person, homeless on the streets of Sarasota.  Then someone recorded him playing piano and the video went viral.  And like the reality show junkies that we are, we watched with amazement the national TV attention that garnered him a makeover, a job, an offer to finish his education that he started a long time ago, an outpouring of money from around the country, and a 15-year reunion with a son that he lost when the child was three. Don’t we wish we can cure all of our homeless problems like this?

For me, I watched this attention with sorrow, not joy.  I wondered about all of the other talents that lie within our homeless population.  And I wondered how Mr. Gould would be able to handle his new-found fame.  For you see, Mr. Gould has been in town for a while.  It was not the first time that he played the piano on Main Street.  His talent existed every other time someone passed him on the street without looking down at him when he was sitting on the sidewalk.  Or ignored his plea for money or food.  Because of his crusty image of a person who has been living on the streets for a long time, little thought was given to who he was or what he could offer until someone put it online. 

I hate to label Mr. Gould as “homeless.”  When someone has been out on the streets as long as Mr. Gould was, homelessness is just a symptom of greater problems.  I would bet that in all his years of addictions and inflictions, people have offered to help Mr. Gould.  And for many reasons, I’m sure it failed because the help offered was only a Band-Aid–not enough to make an impact on his life for the better.

The City of Sarasota has shown some initiative in starting to recognize they just can’t keep removing park benches and picnic tables, and did so by hiring a director of Special Initiatives on Chronic Homeless. I was one of the people who questioned the hiring process and large salary attached to the position.  I still find it hard to swallow when city government is filled with long-time employees who will never crack that threshold of a six-figure income. The same ones who see their departments shrink, their workload increase and their paperclips counted. But that is a management problem, not a homeless problem and we would be better served to recognize the difference. 

We have actually made great strides in the city and in the county with the homeless. There is a lot to boast about, yet we are still caught up in what to do about the people like Mr. Gould.   Maybe we can stop using descriptions like “chronically homeless” or “vagrants” as buzzwords to indicate someone “who can’t be helped” or does not “deserve” to be helped.  We can even put aside our political anger and letting our fear of losing control keep us from letting the people who actually can help, do their job. 

This past Monday, the City Commission opted to allow the director of Special Initiatives on Chronic Homeless to continue in his position.  We need to allow time to give birth to progress without our interference with petty arguing and cynicism.  And maybe with someone focused on the big picture every day, people like Mr. Gould will be seen less often on the streets and quite possibly sitting on a park bench with his son in downtown Sarasota. 

SRQ Daily Columnist Susan Nilon is the president of Florida Talk Radio and owner of WSRQ Radio. She hosts The Nilon Report on WSRQ Sarasota 1220AM/106.9FM weekdays 4pm-6pm. Email her at susan@sarasotatalkradio.com.

[From Eileen Normile]  Democratic Party Values
Eileen Normile

After learning that newly elected city commissioner Democrat Shelli Freeland Eddie recanted her answers to an Equality Florida questionnaire by reversing her positions on marriage equality and abortion, one has to wonder what the Democratic Party was talking about when it injected partisanship into the recent nonpartisan City Commission election. Here are some of their oft-stated reasons that elections MUST be partisan:

1)    “…party affiliation of the candidate is important because it says to the world what it is that they (candidates) value…”  (Rita Ferrandino, former Sarasota Democratic Party chair, WSRQ radio, April 7).

2)     “…one might question why social issues that are a huge platform of political parties, such as gay rights, would play into city elections…..How would I have known where a candidate stood without the party to call on?”  (Political commentator Susan Nilon, SRQ Daily, February14)

Clearly, electoral support based solely on party designation is risky business even for the party itself. The Democratic Party stopped supporting Democrat Matt Wooddall only after it was publically revealed that he fabricated portions of his employment history. Following that discovery, Democratic Party Chair Christine Jennings, said they pivoted party support to Shelli Freeland Eddie because “she represents the values we embrace,”  (quoted in SRQ Daily, March 17, 2015). Meanwhile, it is public record that two of the three Democratic candidates for City Commission failed to correctly or completely fill out their qualifying financial disclosure forms.

If the Democratic Party leaders insist on being involved in non-partisan races, it behooves them to act responsibly and vet the candidates before throwing the party machine behind them. And it is essential that voters understand that party designation in our nonpartisan city elections—or in any election—does not tell the whole story. 

Eileen Normile is a former Sarasota City Commissioner

[From Keen Campaigning]  Don't Label Eddie As Bigot
Christine Hawes and Andre Torkelson

We at Keen Campaigning have found ourselves in a tortuous position since our former client Shelli Freeland Eddie issued her on-the-record spiritual rejection of the LGBT community June 30.

We have our own decades-old connections to the LGBT community and are strong allies for equality. Commissioner Eddie couldn’t have been more “off” in her email to Equality Florida. She was simultaneously naïve and “judgy” about same-sex marriage days after a historic Supreme Court ruling, plum in the glorious afterglow of Pride season and a day after the Stonewall Riots anniversary. Ouch.

But sadly, the LGBT community’s response one-upped Eddie. “Liar,” “bigot” and “scumbag” are some of the terms tossed at Shelli. The LGBT community has now positioned itself as the abused-turned-abuser.

Political watchers know: Keen Campaigning does not hesitate to publicly “break” from liars. We did so four months ago, breaking with a candidate/client who severely exaggerates his employment history on sworn statements.

The difference here, Shelli always has been honest about her personal spiritual views when asked. Contrary to how some sensationally describe this situation, Eddie never lied. Yes, she “repented”—a “faith” term referring to taking responsibility for a so-called sin, and a term she should have reserved for her “faith” community only. But as she also said recently, Eddie now realizes she should have included a paragraph on her Equality Florida survey noting that as a Christian, she did not believe homosexuality or same-sex marriage was sanctioned by God.

Another clarification: no one ever publicly asked Eddie directly about her spiritual views. Those who felt the need to know indeed discussed them with her privately. Key Democratic Party leaders knew of her views—since January at least—and decided they were “comfortable” with them. That understanding was part of our decision to become Shelli’s lead consultants during her historic victory.

We’re not excusing Shelli’s narrow-mindedness. None of us who knew her personal views expected this heretofore strong, capable, intelligent woman to collapse, through this email, into religion-driven “repentance.”

But she is NOT a liar, bigot or scumbag, and should NOT be pressured to resign.

Those promoting this line of attack ignore an essential hallmark of healthy LGBT communities: respecting individual differences. Our community always works to carve out space for subtle differences; that’s why “homosexual” evolved into “gay,” which evolved into “gay and lesbian,” which evolved into “LGBT,” which is now evolving into “LGBTQAA,” and so on. We should recognize and respect subtle differences here, and handle word a public official shares traditional (and narrow-minded) religious beliefs while she commits to upholding equal rights for all with all her might.

If Shelli does not live up to this promise, we will be the first to call her out. We’ll watch to see if she truly learned she was elected to be a public servant, not a minister or evangelical witness. And we’ll continue to hope she more fully explores legitimate differences of opinion about what the Bible says about homosexuality. Here’s the reality: just because the Supreme Court ruled in favor of government recognition of same-sex marriage, religious fundamentalists like Eddie won’t wake up suddenly and feel just fine with that. We’re kidding ourselves if we think other elected officials don’t feel the same, personally and religiously, as Eddie does; they just haven’t been naive enough to get in this quagmire.

Peaceful, respectful co-existence remains the utterly challenging end goal. Hard as it is, resist the urge to lash out. Approach people with sympathy, care and an open mind. Show we can be more fair and balanced than same-sex marriage opponents ever were.

Set a new standard, starting with Shelli Freeland Eddie.  

Christine Hawes and Andre Torkeson co-founderd Keen Campaigning

[From Steve McAllister]  Provide Opportunities For The Extraordinary
Steve McAllister

Sarasota made national news last week thanks to a simple video that revealed one of our homeless citizens actually has talent. Due to the viral video of Donald "Boone" Gould playing one of the pianos adorning our downtown sidewalks, Sarasota's homeless situation once again stepped into the spotlight.

With the video in question receiving millions of views, and a series of spin-off videos produced by ABC, CNN, Inside Edition and other outlets, Donald Gould received over $35,000 through a crowd-funding campaign, a full-ride scholarship to finish his college degree, a virtual reunion with his estranged son, the opportunity for rehab and a promise of a better life should he live up to the expectations his newfound notoriety thrust upon him. Nevertheless, Gould has not escaped the scrutiny that befalls everyone who enjoys meteoric rise to fame, nor that which comes from helping homeless individuals who acquired their lifestyle through bad choices.

Of course, the majority of scrutiny bubbling up through social media networks, a breeding ground for misbegotten schadenfreude where meticulously ill-informed citizens spew vitriol, ranges from professional musicians green with envy over Donald's sudden rise to stardom to people with little better to do than point out the character defects of others. Along with the surge of critics are those who think a poverty-stricken man with unknown talent is some sort of rare miracle, mixed with those who wish the attention and currency gushed onto Mr. Gould could be shared with the rest of the homeless community. Yet beyond the myriad of flailing opinions, we are left with the realization everyone has greater value than what we see on the surface.

Many individuals, both homeless and housed, have played those out-of-tune pianos like virtuosos, yet will never receive the good fortune of a viral video and more than 15 minutes of fame. Many may not possess artistic abilities at all, but underneath their personal fallibilities and internal demonic wrestling matches still exude unheralded skills in benevolent listening, unflinching compassion or a myriad of other wonderful traits often missed in quick judgments and rash critiques.

This freakish lightning bolt of attention generated the ability for one of our 1,000-plus homeless to receive a second chance. The question is how we create more opportunities for each of our citizens to embrace their talents, both astounding and banal, and be appreciated for the human beings they are beyond the examples of perfection we think they should be. It is a wonderful we made pianos available for musical miracles to occur, but what other opportunities are we capable of providing to challenge people to rise up and momentarily become the best versions of themselves? People will come together to help one they deem extraordinary. How do we realize each of us is extraordinary in our own way and encourage those who have fallen short of their greatness to embrace it and thus be embraced by society once again?

The question is not whether Mr. Gould should be appreciated for his musical prowess in spite of his addictions and role as a deadbeat dad, but how we develop a community where people can be greatly appreciated for the gifts they have so they can be empowered to overcome their fallibilities. Regardless of Donald Gould’s mistakes, hardships or shortcomings, this opportunity has given him another chance. Our task is to provide the opportunity for resurrection to as many as we possibly can. That is how we can deftly find our way out of this crisis of culture. 

Steve McAllister is the author of How to Survive an Estralarian Mind Meld, host of Renaissance SRQ on WSLR and producer of the Home Free Project

[From Annelise Rasmussen]  Celebrating a Trailblazer
Annelise Rasmussen

Thrilled to see SRQ 2015 Trailblazer Adrienne Vittadini on your cover!  Her indomitable spirit, intelligence and warmth were evident in the interview. Her advice and observations are always spot-on. I changed the way I pack because of her—three pairs of shoes only now.  My back—and my husband—thank her! Sincerely, a new subscriber and soon-to-be new homeowner. 

Annelise Rasmussen, Sarasota, regarding the July issue of SRQ Magazine, on stands now



[TODAY]  Lionfish Derby

Join in on the fun at the Second Annual Sarasota Lionfish Derby. This exciting and environmentally beneficial event will be hosted by Mote Marine Laboratory, a world-class marine science institution, in cooperation with Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF), which helps study and address the lionfish invasion and sanctions official Lionfish Derbies, and ZooKeeper, the Sarasota-based manufacturer of the leading lionfish containment unit used throughout invaded areas. Lionfish Derbies are an important way to harvest large numbers of this invasive species that has spread along the eastern Atlantic Coast. Derbies help divers harvest lionfish, provide public education, and present opportunities to taste the delicious lionfish for free. This year’s event is based at Mote, with a captains’ meeting on July 10, lionfish hunting July 11 in the beautiful Gulf of Mexico (between Collier and Escambia counties) and the lionfish weigh-in will be July 12 at the Sarasota Outboard Club next door to Mote.  

Mote Marine Lionfish Derby

[SOON]  Celebra una "Noche Cubana"

Interested in the culture of our Cuban neighbors? Art Center Sarasota is holding just the event to satisfy your curiosity about Cuba. “Noche Cubana” will be a celebration of the arts and culture of Cuba. The evening features a performance by students of the Sarasota Cuban Ballet School, a salsa dance demo and class by award-winning dance writer Carrie Seidman, photos of Cuba by recent travelers such as Cliff Roles, live music and signature Cuban foods and beverages, and Dr. Pedro Schuck and Marcos Carvajal, Cuban art trip organizers, will be at the event to answer questions about traveling to Cuba. Lisa Berger, executive director of Art Center Sarasota, explains that the center hosted a trip to Cuba to attend the Havana Biennial in May. "We came back filled with admiration for this beautiful country so deeply steeped in arts and culture," she says. "Speaking with Cubans gave us much insight into their everyday lives. We were delighted to find out that artists were so highly regarded and enjoyed more freedom that the general population. This event is one way to share the experience with those who have an interest and curiosity about Cuba and may someday want to travel there. It also helps to keep the memories fresh for those of us who have had the opportunity to visit.” The fiesta takes place from 6-9pm on July 22, so buy your tickets before they sell out as anticipated. Come and enjoy a mojito and celebrate our new relationship with this fascinating country!" 

Art Center Sarasota- Noche Cubana

[SCOOP]  Grant for Good

For the second year, Child Protection Center (CPC) was awarded a $10,000 grant from the PNC Foundation in support of its Personal Safety and Community Awareness program.  Melissa Lane, CPC’s Director of Development stated, “We are grateful to have PNC’s generous commitment to our cause in the prevention and education area, which will help in efforts to protect children.” The grant will aid CPC in reaching over 35,000 children and professionals who work with children.  The team’s central purpose is to teach personal safety at every grade level in a majority of the schools in Sarasota County and summer camps.  The focus of these lessons is to help children understand touching rules, Internet safety, and bully prevention, as well as to send each child home with important safety tips and talking points for parents and guardians.  The team also trains law enforcement and professionals how to spot all forms of abuse and the steps to take to report any suspicions. Through funding like PNC’s, CPC’s Personal Safety staff can take their message across the county to family-oriented fairs and activities to inform the general public about the realities of abuse and how to advocate for children.  CPC continues to look at innovative ways to empower children, inform families, and educate the public in an effort to break the cycle of child abuse. 

Child Protection Center

[SCOOP]  Service Knows No Bounds

At 84 years of age, Jo Rita Stevens is active in a way that would exhaust others. Not only does she spend significant time with Goodwill Manasota, she also volunteers with Community Haven, Healthy Families and Kiwanis Club, serves as an advisor to the Sarasota High School Key Club, and serves as the Secretary of both the Board of Trustees at her church and for the Historical Society in Sarasota. Stevens was recently honored by the Office of Volunteer & Community Service (OVCS) division of the Department of Elder Affairs for her volunteer work throughout the region. The OVCS has included an intergenerational component of volunteer recognition to highlight the important connection of seniors and youth working together through community service. “I was surprised and honored after learning about this award. I never became involved to be recognized. I believe that every day there are new challenges and new people that you can do something for,” said Stevens. “My service with Goodwill made me passionate about giving back to the community – the work they do is so incredible. When people think of me, they’re going to think of Goodwill; we go hand in hand. Goodwill changes lives, and the organization has always had a huge impact on my life.”  

Goodwill Manasota

[SCOOP]  Welcome to Appalachia

There’s a new exhibit that is making its home at the Ringling until mid-September. Appalachia USA is a documentary project by photographer Builder Levy that presents life and labor in coal mining communities through lush black and white photographs. Through Levy’s lens, we connect to the miners on a personal level as we explore the intimate interiors of family homes, the natural beauty of the landscape, and the distinctive rural vernacular and material culture that marks the region’s unique identity. Levy began the project in 1968 in the effort to both dispel the “hillbilly” stereotypes of the subjects by emphasizing their humanity and dignity, and also to record and teach others about the social landscape of America. Go no further than the Ringling to take the trip to Appalachia and experience this rich history in person.   

The Ringling

[SCOOP]  Fourth of July Family Fun

Kids and their families enjoyed delicious summer food and fun at a Fourth of July block party hosted by the North Sarasota Library. In partnership with All Faiths Food Bank and the Sarasota County School District, the event gave families an opportunity to have lunch together and spend some time at the library. Summer food assistance programs are in full swing for the children who face hunger during summer more than any other time of the year, but the collaboration made it possible for parents to eat and spend some time with their children. To help feed children all summer long, the School District is serving breakfast and lunch to kids at 40 locations, and the libraries are providing bags of food for children and teens to take home during regular hours. Participating public libraries include: Fruitville, Gulf Gate, North Sarasota, and Selby in Sarasota; Elsie Quirk in Englewood; North Port Public Library in North Port; and Jacaranda and Venice Public Library in Venice. 

All Faiths Food Bank

[SCOOP]  Just Add Beer

As the Official Bread of Craft Beer, it only made sense for the Boardwalk Food Company to refresh their packaging and website to align with the Craft Beer industry. Thanks to Creative Director and Ringling College professor Janine Gevas, the Boardwalk Craft Beer Popper Mix boxes have a great new look. The design makes it clear how easy they are to make by “just adding beer!” The bottle cap logo design ties it all together in a fun way that illustrates what the brand is all about- simple to make and fun to eat delicious products. The box printing was also done locally by Spotlight Graphics. Boardwalk products are made in America with company headquarters in Sarasota. The Craft Beer Popper mixes are available in three flavors: Original, Rosemary Sea Salt and Cornbread. Any 12oz beverage will work. Part of the fun is deciding what lager, ale, pilsner or stout to use. With the popularity of craft brews, the list of choices is endless. What are poppers? Poppers are bite size balls of deliciousness that are easily made using a mini-muffin pan and take only 20 minutes to bake. Boardwalk Food Company products are available online and locally at Morton’s, Molly’s Boutique, Albritton’s, The Butcher’s Block, Dana’s Gourmet Market and Fraser’s Island Gift Nook. 

Boardwalk Food Company

[SOON]  Sizzling Summer Discounts

Ready for some sensational summer deals at the area’s best independently owned restaurants? Now there’s no reason to skimp or skip the appetizer—just take advantage of The Sarasota-Manatee Originals’ 24-hour, half-off sale starting at 9 a.m. on Monday, July 13. Thousands of dollars in discounted dining certificates to a limited selection of member restaurants will be available will be available. Discounted dining certificates are available online only. After purchase, the certificates can be printed and used immediately. Kate Atkin, the executive director of The Sarasota-Manatee Originals, explains that this 24-hour sale offers the remainder of discounted dining certificates left over from the 30-percent-off sale that began March 5. She reminds foodies that because quantities are limited, it’s best to visit the site as soon as the sale begins. “There’s no better deal than our 50-percent-off sale,” says Atkin. “We encourage people to visit our website early because certificates can sell out in hours or even minutes of becoming available.” 

Sarasota Manatee Originals

SRQ Media Group

SRQ DAILY is produced by SRQ | The Magazine and edited by Senior Editor Phil LedererNote: 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. 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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