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SRQ DAILY Dec 12, 2015

Saturday Perspectives Edition

Saturday Perspectives Edition

"Removing the park benches penalized everyone, not just the homeless. It made everyone who did not live on the perimeter of the park feel unwelcomed."

- Susan Nilon, The Nilon Report

[Higher Education]  Data Science is Important
Donal O'Shea, doshea@ncf.edu

Something strange happened two decades ago. Large collaborative science projects such as the search for the Higgs boson, the Hubble and Sloan deep sky surveys and the human genome project began producing more data each year than the entire contents of the Library of Congress. An early side effect of the first was the invention of the World Wide Web. Since then, the ubiquity of sensing devices, the internet, social media, big science and high quality computers has produced even more massive data sets. Large intellectual and economic rewards accrue to companies and entities with the ability to effectively manipulate and analyze such data.   

The term “data science” was coined to describe the mix of analytic and technical skills involved in the analysis of large data sets and there is no shortage of reports documenting the need for data scientists. A current snapshot of open job positions in data science from the website “simplyhired.com” includes: 4,867 jobs within 100 miles of Sarasota, 10,109 jobs in Florida, and 315,316 jobs nationwide. Colleges and universities have begun to respond to the need. Last year, six large universities, including Columbia and Ohio State, launched master’s programs in data science to fill the gap in employment. The program at North Carolina State reports an application acceptance rate of 12.8 percent for 2013-14, and 100 percent subsequent employment with a median base salary of $96,000.

New College has just begun to recruit its first class for our new master’s in Data Science program. The first students will start in February 2016 and another cohort will enter in late August 2016. While most liberal arts institutions offer scattered elements of a data science program, none offers anything remotely similar to New College’s program. However, a liberal arts college with a strong interdisciplinary focus is a particularly good place in which to offer a data science graduate program. Good programs require that students have about two-thirds of a math major, two-thirds of a computer science major and two-thirds of a statistics major. At research universities, these disciplines are offered in separate schools, making it difficult for students to acquire highly interdisciplinary technical skills.   

Moreover, local and national companies have agreed to share some of their data with us for classroom and project analysis. They will offer paid internships to our students, integrating them into their own industry data teams during the fourth and final semester of the program. This will ensure that graduates of the new program are not only technically adept, but also skilled in working with others on projects as a team. This will enable students and companies to get to know each other.  

Best of all, the new program will provide companies in Florida with highly skilled workers to tackle big data analysis here. They will no longer be forced to outsource these functions elsewhere. The program will drive new innovation between the business and education communities. It will provide another locus around which local higher educational institutions can collaborate to support our region’s emergent information and entrepreneurial economy. Stay tuned.

Donal O'Shea is president of New College of Florida. 

[The Report]  When a Bench is Much More than a Bench
Susan Nilon, susan.nilon@gmail.com

In August of 2011, the city of Sarasota removed the five park benches in Selby Five Points Park.  It was the beginning of a long effort to rid the city of the homeless who call our city their home.  The city also removed the two-foot perimeter wall around the park that allowed people to sit when the park benches were full.  Since then, the only real enjoyment received of the park is by the little dogs who come down for their daily walk.  

At that time, it was promised that by ridding the park of the benches, the city would be able to better address the issues of the homeless and the residents.  It’s been four years and four months since the last time someone sat down at Five Points Park. The question is, “Did removing the park benches remove the homeless from Five Points Park?”  Yes, it did.  It moved them right across the street to the Selby Library and down the way to several other parks that pepper the city.  What it also did was remove every other person from the park as well. Five Points Park became a pass-through park ever since.  No one spends time in Five Points Park.

Removing the park benches penalized everyone, not just the homeless.  It made everyone who did not live on the perimeter of the park feel unwelcomed. As symbolic as the five benches could be, removing them sent a message of a cold heart encased in a Grinch who steals Christmas.  

Just this past week, the city decided to reopen the discussion of putting back the benches.  Well, not the benches, exactly.  But possibly tables and chairs.  They are “experimenting” with different ideas in hopes to not promote the opportunity for the homeless to lay down and linger too long.  There is no deadline, and considering the past history of the many times the commission has said they would put back the benches, it still might not happen.

And what about this N.I.M.B.Y approach that plagues our city when it comes to the homeless?  This past week, a group of city residents packed the Sarasota County School Board meeting in hopes to find support from the board members to protest the homeless shelter that is possibly going to be located in the county on Myrtle Avenue, adjacent to the city limits.  Having absolutely no jurisdiction, the School Board members wondered why they were even being asked to get involved.  

That demonstration at the school board meeting shows that in the four-plus years the city has learned very little in what to do about the homeless.  And to blame it all on the commission who originally removed the benches would not acknowledge that there have been several commissions in place since then. I commend the county for moving forward with their plan to build the homeless shelter. I am thrilled that the Sheriff will take it on when it is built. I expect it not to go perfectly, but you can’t call it progress if you don’t take the actual first step. In fact, if the people who are in fear of the homeless in their neighborhood put as much effort in working with the homeless, I bet these issues and fears would be half of what they are now.

Many people want the park benches back. They want them back because, not only do they symbolize a civility that once existed in our city, but they also know that the needle has moved very little on the results that were promised when the benches were first removed. The plan did not work. It’s time to put them back.

Susan Nilon hosts The Nilon Report.  

[Arts Alliance]  Arts and Culture Remains an Economic Driver
Jim Shirley, jshirley@sarasotaarts.org

One of the primary reasons so many people elect to make Sarasota County their home is the abundance of high quality arts and cultural amenities that are easily available to everyone. Very few communities of this size anywhere in the world can match the quantity and quality of cultural opportunities that are found here. It has been said that the arts are fundamental to our humanity. They enable and inspire us, fostering creativity, goodness and beauty. They help us express our values, build bridges between cultures, and bring us together regardless of ethnicity, religion or age. 

Often overlooked is the fact that the arts are also a major economic driver. For example, if we look at the total employment numbers for Sarasota County, our non-profit arts and cultural institutions employee over 5,000 people in full time jobs. Taken as a whole, they are one of the largest employers in the County. These same organizations spend over

$180 million a year buying goods and services from other local businesses, their employees buy homes, buy groceries at the market and they pay taxes into our local government. When we expand our scope to look at the State of Florida, we see that there are over 88,000 full-time jobs in the arts. The total expenditures of arts and cultural organizations across the State exceed $3.2 billion and they generate over $415 million in State and local government revenue.

Unlike many for-profit businesses, these organizations are dependent upon earned income, philanthropy and grants to provide the fuel to drive their businesses. As our legislators prepare to return to Tallahassee in January, the Arts and Cultural Alliance encourages them to look at the arts as strong economic drivers that provide unusually high rates of return on the investments that are made in them. We encourage them to be leaders in supporting the Department of Cultural Affairs grants programs for arts and culture. These grants are vetted through a tried and proven process that ensures the fairness and effectiveness of the program. When fully funded, they bring a substantial investment to the arts and cultural organizations in Sarasota County and send a clear message that we understand that THE ARTS MEAN BUSINESS.

Jim Shirley is the executive director for the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County. 

[The Way I See It]  Meeting a Housing Need

I rarely read Paul Krugman’s columns but his op-ed last week, titled “Not Just New York City’s challenge: Tight land regulation, gentrification and inequality,” caught my attention.

Using New York as an example, he pointed out that it was just not New York but could apply to many of our iconic cities. From my perspective, substitute the City of Sarasota for New York in the article and it makes for an interesting read.

He writes about how our cities after decades of decline has been getting richer, more educated and yes whiter. “Today are urban cores are providing ever more amenities, but largely to a very affluent minority” He goes on to talk about how the benefits of this urban renaissance can be spread more widely. The body of the article outlines the main causes of this phenomena, dramatic decline in crime rates, he uses New York as an example. The high-income elite, as he labels it, now want to live in inner cities, as opposed to sprawling suburban estates. Hence gentrification. So what about all those who are being priced out of Americas’ urban revival. He poses the question “does it have to be that way?” According to Krugman, “No. Rising demand for urban living by the elite could be met largely by increasing supply.” He further mentions that tight land–use restrictions are a contributing factor to unaffordability.

My apologies to Mr. Krugman for paraphrasing his column, but I am intrigued by its relevance to what is currently happening in Sarasota today. The City Commission with very little fuss created the Rosemary Overlay District, which tripled density in the designated area. Almost overnight, developers, recognizing a void that was not being met, got to work with the end result that well over a thousand units are in the pipeline. Also, Harvey Vengroff is diligently pursuing the development of about 400 affordable units just off Fruitville. Talk about increasing supply. Oh by the way, the Sarasota Housing Authority is also in the process of applying for tax credits to enable the development of at least 80 units, the majority of which will be affordable as mandated under federal guidelines, in a mixed income project on Lemon. Surely this takes care of increasing the housing supply in urban Sarasota and allows the market to play its part.

However, we need to be cognizant of the recent City Commission and Planning Board Workshop that was held to discuss the Urban Design Studio’s proposed recommendations for changes to the City’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan. The following language has been added to the paragraph “Intent and Purpose”: “Seek a balance between development and natural systems. Promote sustainability.”

In addition there are also significant new Goals, Objectives and Action Strategies for Habitat and upland resources, expanding sustainability language and updating for best management practices etc. These lofty goals are very laudable but we need to make sure that the baby is not thrown out with the bathwater and we end out with a plan that is over complicated, difficult to interpret, out of touch with the market and expensive to implement.

Remember Andres Duany’s advice on his last visit to Sarasota when he surprisingly suggested reducing regulations. Thi,s coupled with Paul Krugman’s concern about tight land regulations, should be significant factors in analyzing these proposed recommendations to change the City’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan.

That’s the way I see it.

Ian Black is the founder of Ian Black Real Estate. 

[From Harold Maio]  Speak of Cure, not Stigma

When someone says, “There is a stigma to mental illnesses,” the proper response is, “That is a terrible thing to say, wouldn’t you rather teach someone about these illnesses, that they learn about them, that we learn, that we find answers to them?”

That is precisely what we did with breast cancer, and look at what the Susan G. Komen Foundation has accomplished. In their walks for the cure, they have attracted hundreds of millions of research dollars, and our knowledge is ever expanding because of it. We knew little about it when my Mom died of breast cancer in the 1970s. With today’s knowledge she might well have survived. 

What do we know about schizophrenia today? We know it is an illness of degree. At its most serious it leaves a person totally out of contact with reality as we know it. At its mildest, people earn doctoral degrees and teach at university. There are many degrees in between. We know it is connected to the brain, we do not yet know precisely how, what anomalies exist that might cause it. It is time we walked for the cure. We know the same of clinical depression and bipolar disorder. It is time we walked for the cure.

So please, the next time someone says to you, “There is a stigma to mental illnesses”, help them appreciate that it is time we focused on researching the cures, one step at a time, one voice at a time, and ask them to raise their voice toward finding those cures.

Harold Maio, responding to the article “Dan Rather to Speak on Mental Illness” in the Nov. 26 edition of SRQ Daily. 

[SCOOP]  Dickens At The Crosley

Want to kick your holiday cheer into high gear? Tis the season to revel in a festive evening of holiday carols and tales at the spectacular Powell Crosley Mansion. Now through December 20, feel the spirit of the holidays and immerse yourself in the historic glamour of the estate as you move from room to room to experience a festive, family evening of theater, traditional melodies and tales. Performances will take place: December 11-13 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., December 15-17 at 7:30 p.m. and December 18 & 20 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at 8374 North Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.  

Powell Crosley Estate

[SCOOP]  Sarasota Lawn Bowling Tournaments This Weekend

The Sarasota Lawn Bowling Club is hosting two tournaments this weekend.  Don't miss all the action at the Mixed Pairs tournament today December 12 at 9:30am and the Mixed Triples tournament tomorrow December 13 at 1pm. The Sarasota Lawn Bowling Club is a fully affiliated member of the SE Division of Bowls USA and located near downtown Sarasota at 809 North Tamiami Trail. There is open bowling every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 1pm in the winter and 9am in the summer and 10am Saturdays. Bowlers of all levels of experience are welcome. More experienced bowlers play Fridays in a Presidents Draw. This exciting outdoor sport is easy to learn and the club offers free lessons. Just bring flat soled shoes. No partner needed. 

Sarasota Lawn Bowling Club

[SCOOP]  The Perfect Santa Paws Stocking Stuffer

HSSC's 2016 Calendar & Pet Photo Contest was a huge success and the calendars feature some of the finest looking furry friends around. They're the perfect way to keep yourself organized while helping support the Humane Society of Sarasota County. They're also a wonderful stocking stuffer for your friends and family. Get yours today at the HSSC website - just in time for the holidays.  

Humane Society Sarasota County

[SCOOP]  Circus Arts Conservatory Announces 2015-16 Winter Season

The Circus Arts Conservatory has announced its Winter Season which includes four breathtaking spectacles of artistry and wonder including the Sailor Circus Annual Holiday Celebration,  “Red, White & BELLO!”, Cirque des Voix, and the The Sailor Circus Spring Show. Tickets are now on sale and can be purchased online at www.CircusArts.org, at the box office at 2075 Bahia Vista St., Sarasota or by phone 941-355-9805. 

Circus Arts Conservatory

[SCOOP]  Chagall Exhibit Coming To Selby Gardens in 2017

In February 2016, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens will launch the first of the  Jean & Alfred Goldstein Exhibition Series of interdisciplinary arts and horticultural exhibitions. Marc Chagall’s Cote d’Azur: The Artist’s Botanical Imagery and Inspiration Found on the French Riviera will be a six-month long exhibition that will incorporate key works created by Chagall that feature botanical imagery inspired by the south of France. At the centerpiece of the exhibit will be “The Lovers,” an oil painting Chagall created in 1937 that will be on loan from the collection of The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, a world-leading art and archaeology museum. During the Chagall exhibit, the Tropical Conservatory will feature a changing exhibit of orchids, bromeliads, bougainvillea and citrus trees, the flora of St. Paul de Vence, the picturesque village where Chagall spent the latter part of his life and quotes that illustrate Chagall’s deep reverence for nature will be placed throughout the gardens. The Chagall exhibition will also include complementary education programs and tours, French-themed performances and French Riviera-themed food and drink and cooking demonstrations led by Michael’s On East. 



Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

[Cream Of The Coconut]  Five Fun Facts about Linda Gross, owner of Advice Inc.
1. Linda is the queen of charts. All client production schedules are captured in color-coded spreadsheets that Linda uses to keep track of what is due where and when.
2. Procrastination is not a word in Linda’s vocabulary. She loves to work ahead and is happiest when she has the next six months planned out and booked in perfect order.
3. Strong coffee is the fastest way to improve Linda’s day. The stronger the better. Served black and in a cup with a saucer, please.
4. Linda knows well the struggles faced by today’s working women. She advanced up the corporate ladder during a time when there weren’t many other women at her level. Today she runs her agency with that understanding in mind, allowing her staff to set their own schedules as they see fit. As long as the work gets done, of course.
5. Linda has near perfect recall. Tell her something once, and she will remember it and someday find a way to use for a client’s advantage. 

Advice Inc.

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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