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SRQ DAILY Sep 19, 2015

"We simply cannot allow the price of higher education to be a lifetime of student loan debt."

- Dr. Carol Probstfeld, State College of Florida

[Gulf Coast]  Affording Livability
Jon Thaxton

Sarasota County is a wonderful place to live. For those of us who enjoy its natural environment, recreational opportunities, cultural amenities and so much more—as I have my whole life—we don’t need rankings or surveys to understand how good it is. Yet last week brought another kudo, from a website called Livability.com, whose list of “100 best places to live” put Sarasota atop all other cities in Florida and 31st in the nation.

For the increasing number of our neighbors who can’t afford housing here, though, Sarasota County isn’t paradise. That’s the thrust of a new report commissioned by Gulf Coast Community Foundation and produced by the Florida Housing Coalition. Home Matters for Sarasota County 2015 found that 43,127 low-income households—a quarter of all households in the county—pay over 30 percent of their income for housing, the threshold considered affordable by experts. Of those, more than 18,400 very-low-income households pay more than half of their income for their homes.

On top of this existing need, the report suggests, new demand for affordable housing in Sarasota County could well outstrip supply by more than two to one in the next several years. So, we’re over 43,000 in the hole, and we’re only adding one affordable housing option for every two additional households that will need one. That’s simple math, and it simply doesn’t add up.

Contributing to the need for affordable housing is the dominance of low-wage service jobs in our local economy. Many of the workers who support our top-ranked lifestyle can’t earn enough to survive here themselves. The tradeoffs they must make—choosing transportation or cheap food over medicine or childcare—will only add to taxpayers’ burden for social services and other assistance in the long run.

Other new research complements Gulf Coast’s report, presenting a fuller picture of this issue. While our analysis shows that most of the top 15 jobs in the Sarasota metro area don’t pay enough to affordably rent a one-bedroom apartment, a recent business survey by the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County found that housing affordability is a leading challenge at higher economic levels in the workforce too. If an IT or marketing professional earning, say, $60,000 or more can’t afford to live here, what does that mean for two parents working hard as nursing assistants while raising an infant and a toddler?

A new analysis coming from The Salvation Army of Sarasota further calculates the public costs of chronic homelessness in our region and projects the economic impact of providing sustainable housing solutions. That’s a report I look forward to reading and sharing with stakeholders across our public, private and independent sectors, as it will take consensus-driven strategies with community-wide support to meet our housing needs.

I believe the County Commission and their staff along with our community have done an excellent job crafting and adopting policies that can provide the impetus and framework to meet our collective affordable-housing goals. But we need to measure the effectiveness of these policies as they’re currently applied and then attend to activating or improving upon them as that assessment instructs.

Sarasota County is a great place to live. It can and should be so for even more of the hardworking people who call this community home but can’t afford to live here. 

Jon Thaxton is the director of Community Investment at Gulf Coast Community Foundation, a former Sarasota County Commissioner and a lifelong resident of Sarasota County.

[Higher Education]  College Affordability
Carol Probstfeld, presidentsoffice@scf.edu

Anything with a trillion-dollar price tag is serious business. The total student loan debt in the United States is projected to be $1 trillion. If that’s an unfathomable number to you, you’re not alone. But here is another statistic that brings the reality home—two-thirds of students are graduating from U.S. colleges and universities with some level of debt. Experts project that “some level of debt” averages out to about $26,000 per student.

Higher education costs have vastly exceeded the rate of inflation over the last 30 years and tuition at both public and private institutions is three to four times higher than in the 1970s. Public or private, on-line or in-person, community college or university, the prices have skyrocketed. States are spending less money on higher education, while the availability of federal financial aid and the high demand for education has resulted in increasing costs—the law of supply and demand.

Higher education costs have entered the national political arena, with democratic contenders for the presidency pledging to address the debt crisis and provide community college education for free. President Barack Obama is engaging Congress with a plan to make community college free for every student who can maintain a 2.5 grade point average.

No one will argue that higher education has great benefits. Graduates earn more money over their lifetimes, their children are more likely to pursue higher education, and in general, those with a degree enjoy a better standard of living. We simply cannot allow the price of higher education to be a lifetime of student loan debt.

While we are not offering “free” community college at the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, we have not raised tuition for five years. Community college provides a low-cost alternative to a public university or private institution. At SCF, a student can earn an Associate of Arts degree in two years and then move on to a university, or earn a workforce degree that allows them to start a new job or advance in their profession. Either way, our students leave with less debt and a degree that allows to them to pursue their goals.

The average debt for a full-time SCF student is about $6,000, if they finance two years and summer classes all on student loans. It is still debt, but about a third to half of that incurred for the same time at a Florida university. Plus, students can reduce expenses by living at home, keeping their jobs and remaining in the community.

Through SCF, high school students can also decrease future education costs by dual enrolling in college courses provided on our campus or at their high school. Students can complete some core courses and move on more quickly once they enroll in a college or university after high school graduation.

At SCF, our goal is to provide an environment in which students can graduate and take advantage of their education without owing a great deal of money.

You can get anywhere from here… and at SCF, we are here to get you there. 

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

[Argus]  Selling Seafood to the World
Christine Robinson, Christine@argusfoundation.org

Chances are good that over Labor Day holiday, you contributed to what’s called the blue economy.

Whether you went fishing with the kids, enjoyed time at the beach or just ordered mullet at a local eatery, you were part of a multi-billion-dollar industry vital to the well being of our community. 

While our region depends heavily on the $11.8-billion economic impact of the Sarasota Bay, research shows that additional attention focused on our natural blue resources could result in exponential returns on our investment. 

At the recent Meet the Minds luncheon, hosted by The Argus Foundation and Science and Environment Council, an experienced panel highlighted this essential community dialogue while linking the importance of the environment to business and our economy. 

This relationship is also being explored by Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s BIG Initiative, which has issued a recent report with notable facts.

For instance, 90 percent off all seafood in the United States is imported. Here on the Sunshine State peninsula, Florida buys $2.6 billion of seafood from overseas and imports more aquaculture food products than any other state.  Why is this when we have the Gulf of Mexico at our doorstep?

Fishing generates more than $7 billion in Florida’s economy, but fish sticks served in school cafeterias are first caught in Alaska, processed in Asia and re-imported to the U.S.

Furthermore, why do 50 percent of Sarasota County students who qualify for free or reduced-cost lunch often go hungry when we could easily raise more seafood from the oceans right in our own backyard?

We live in a state with the second longest coastline in America, yet Florida ranks 12th in seafood production.

Mullet roe from fish caught in the historic fishing village of Cortez in Manatee County is exported to Asia or Europe for as little as $10 per pound but is reimported to restaurants in the U.S. for upwards of $100 per pound. The leftover mullet, much of which could have been used, is then thrown overboard, much to the chagrin of local restaurateurs like Ed Chiles, who watch in disdain as the dead unused fish wash up on our shores.

Great minds at organizations like GCCF, Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, SCOPE and The Science and Environment Council are challenging these norms, asking important questions and making great strides in finding the answers. Answers that promise to enhance our blue economy both locally and statewide and could serve as an example around the country. As residents of this beautiful and unique coastal community, however, we can make a difference as well.

It’s as easy as enjoying mullet, its bottarga, and oysters or clams native to Florida on your next visit to your favorite seafood restaurant. That small step of eating more regionally harvested seafood drives local economic opportunity.

This is one of the many local initiatives and public private partnerships collaborating on maximizing our heritage resources from the sea. 

SRQ Daily Columnist Christine Robinson the executive director of The Argus Foundation.

[Women in Business]  Program Kickoff Celebration

On Thursday, September 17th, SRQ Media hosted the official kickoff celebration of the Women in Business program at Sophie's at Saks Fifth Avenue. Commencing the monthly Leadership Circle gatherings that will serve as steering committee meetings with the 2014 and 2015 winners and finalists of the yearly competition, the kickoff served as a chance to meet, enjoy a happy hour, thank the sponsors of Women in Business and get to know the upcoming program year. Stay tuned for what we learn from this year's group of local woman influencers at each Seaside Salon Series which will be hosted at the Resort at Longboat Key Club. For more information about the Women in Business program and to learn about the upcoming Hear Me Roar Luncheon and Awards Ceremony in 2016, visit SRQHEARMEROAR.COM 

[SCOOP]  Cool Today Is Going PINK!

You may recognize Cool, Plumbing and Energy Today for their bright green and blue colored trucks. In September and October, there's a new truck in town- and it’s bright PINK! The “Breast Cancer Awareness” themed truck will be making its way around town to help raise awareness and funds for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. Here’s how you can help: When you see the Cool Today Pink truck  around town, post a picture of it to CoolToday’s Facebook page Facebook.com/GetTheBestFromToday. For every person who posts a snap of the truck,  Cool Today will donate $5 to Making Strides.  For everyone who posts a selfie with the PINK truck, Cool Today will donate $10 to the cause.  


Cool Today

[SCOOP]  Fusion Dance Artists Celebrate 10 Years With A New Name -Sarasota Contemporary Dance

Sarasota’s 1st Contemporary Dance Company known previously as Fuzión Dance Artists has changed its name to Sarasota Contemporary Dance. Artistic Director, Leymis Bolaños Wilmott states” the heart and vision of the company will stay the same but the new name gives clarity and allows us to embrace the community who has supported us for a decade”. The former name was more well known in the dance world than locally but by adding the location of Sarasota with the descriptive of contemporary,  the community that the company serves will know exactly who it is and the dance world at large will know exactly where its based.The new name was recently launched at a kickoff event for the company season.  

Sarasota Contemporary Dance

[SCOOP]  Kates Foundation Grant to Forty Carrots to Benefit Teen Parents

The Kates Foundation has granted $10,000 to Forty Carrots Family Center in support of its programs providing parenting education and mental health services to teen parents and their children at Riverview High School and North Port High School.  Forty Carrots’ program fosters healthy relationships between young parents enrolled in Sarasota County Schools’ CYESIS Teen Parent Program and their children. Forty Carrots delivers parenting education and mental health services to teen parents at their high school as part of their weekly class schedule, through a partnership with Sarasota County Schools since 1996. 


Forty Carrots Family Center

[SOON]  Sarasota World Affairs Council: "Is Israeli-Palestinian Peace Possible in the Near Future?"

Ralph Nurnberger, Professor at Georgetown University, former legislative liaison with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and former staff member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee will address the Sarasota World Affairs Council in his lecture entitled "Is Israeli-Palestinian Peace Possible in the Near Future?" on October 13 at 6:30pm at Sainer Hall on the New College Campus. The lecture is free, open to the public and followed by a reception for Sarasota World Affairs Council members.  

Sarasota World Affairs Council

[SCOOP]  Dine And Give At The Columbia Restaurant Community Harvest

Through the Annual Columbia Restaurant Community Harvest Program, the Columbia Restaurant will make a contribution equal to 5 percent (tax and tip are excluded) of all guests’ lunch and dinner checks to the charitable organizations chosen by their customers during the month of September.  Charities this year include All Faiths Food Bank, Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County, Cat Depot, Foundation For Dreams, Lifelong Learning Academy, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Meals on Wheels PLUS of Manatee, Moffitt Cancer Center, Mote Marine, Second Chance Last Opportunity, St. Jude Church/Hispanic-American Center, Suncoast Charities for Children, Sunshine From Darkness, The Players, and Tidewell Hospice. Over the past 17 years Columbia Restaurant Community Harvest has donated over $1.6 Million to non-profit organizations throughout Florida.  


Columbia Restaurant

[SCOOP]  Pines of Sarasota Re-Freshes Brand To Match New Corporate Vision

Pines of Sarasota has unveiled a new corporate brand identity designed to honor the organization’s legacy as a pioneer in compassionate skilled nursing while evolving the brand into a national leader of rehabilitation and senior care solutions. “As an organization devoted to seniors and their well-being, we endeavor to continue a progressive, national leadership role created by my predecessor John Overton to pioneer new programs and services that not only advance the standard of care that set a national benchmark, but makes a difference in lives of each and every patient.”stated states David Sylvester, President and CEO, Pines of Sarasota.  Bette Zaret, Director of Strategic Marketing for Pines of Sarasota, took the lead in helping the organization create a brand that matched the bold corporate vision. “The new logo is more iconic and memorable and the tag line not only plays into our historical past, but showcases our biggest end benefit….our compassionate care,” says Zaret.  

Pines of Sarasota

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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