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SRQ DAILY Apr 23, 2016

"We are still an auto-dependent community. But the good news is that there's lots of room for improvement to lessen our auto dependence by improving walking, biking and transit options to the standards that people will choose to use. "

- Tom Barwin, Sarasota City Manager

[City Government]  Car Dependency = Traffic Congestion
Tom Barwin, Thomas.Barwin@sarasotagov.com

According to former Sarasota City Manager David Sollenberger (1987-2001), our motto “Where urban amenities meet small town living” was coined in the mid-1990s. I hear versions of the phrase repeated around town, often in the context of managing growth and traffic.  

Today our small town is approaching about 55,000 full-time residents who reside on 15 square miles of land adjacent to 10 square miles of bay and Gulf beaches. In planning terms, mostly due to density, commerce and our urban amenities, we are said to be the principal city in a metropolitan region of approximately 750,000. As a region, that is comparable in population to Portland, Boston and Seattle, albeit a bit more spread out.

As the demographic wave of Baby Boomers and Millennials continue to migrate to the region, the City Commission, staff and community continue to explore options to best move cars and people.  

When it comes to moving cars, we have plenty of data on traffic and roads. The main challenge and frustration with traffic is peak-hour congestion. Peak-hour traffic impacts our streets about four hours out of a 24-hour day or about 15 percent of the time.

We are working with our partners in high-tech traffic management to better time our traffic control signals when it will help. Turn lanes will be added where deemed helpful. Our first two in a necklace of 11 roundabouts on US 41 will begin installation in 2017-18 at 10th and 14th Streets.   

One of the newer influences impacting our love and dependency on the automobile is climate change, which has emerged as a public concern. On a related note, the joys and efficiencies of city living have been rediscovered. In response, engaged communities have begun to focus attention on walkability scores, transit scores, bikeability and lowering carbon emissions.    

Although our walkability score for downtown is 87 and Laurel Park, Gillespie and Rosemary neighborhoods have above-average scores, our overall community walkability score is 49not as healthy as it should or could be. Our transit score is 34. This relatively low score means potential SCAT bus riders who could choose transit over a car generally will not.  

Our scores confirm that overall we are still an auto-dependent community. But the good news is that there's lots of room for improvement to lessen our auto dependence by improving walking, biking and transit options to the standards that people will choose to use. Pursuing this strategy will lessen the pressure on roads, the family auto budget and the environment.

So here is a summary of what the city has been up to on the very important mobility front:

  • The City Commission amended our code to change from collecting road impact fees from developments, which had to be spent on bigger roads, to mobility fees, which provide new options for moving people.

  • Staff is preparing a request for proposals to implement downtown shuttles, which will utilize uber-like technology, small electric vehicles and flexible routes to move people around within the entire downtown district beginning this fall.

  • We are investigating the pros, cons and costs of a temporary pedestrian walkway over US 41 at First Street during the Gulfstream roundabout construction period.

  • FDOT will install a dedicated right-turn lane on Northbound US 41 to eastbound Fruitville Road this summer.

  • We are drafting a request for proposals for backbone transit planning from the SRQ Airport/University District to downtown and the Medical District, with shuttles to the beaches.  

  • A second component of the above will be a transit related, city-to-city dialogue, with our colleagues in the City of Bradenton, Venice and North Port to explore clean, fast and affordable transit between our growing cities.

  • We are adding sitting benches and widening sidewalks whenever possible to encourage healthy walking.

  • The City Commission will be considering an updated bicycle route plan this summer.

  • We are preparing to intensify the push to finish the incredible legacy trail bike path into Payne Park and downtown, connecting us to our treasured sister community of Venice via a 30-mile protected, scenic bike trail.

  • Water taxis continue to be explored by Longboat Key and Sarasota.

It may be time for Sarasota and our region to boldly enhance our urban mobility amenities. We are actively looking around the world for the best solutions to move people about in fun, interesting, reliable and cost-efficient ways. We know many of our residents are from other places and travel the globe. We welcome learning about anything anyone has seen or researched that might work here.   

Thank you for your time, and forward any thoughts you may have on this or related subjects to: thomas.barwin@sarasotagov.com.

Tom Barwin is city manager for the City of Sarasota. 

[Higher Education]  Saving the World Through Creative Thinking
Dr. Larry Thompson, lthompso@ringling.edu

Just yesterday, people all around the world celebrated the importance of taking care of our planet. However, Earth Day is more than a day. It is a holistic concept dedicated to inspiring innovative and environmentally-friendly initiatives, and to continuing a global dialogue about how to live and work together in a conscious and sustainable way.

At Ringling College of Art and Design, we strive to develop new generations of environmentally conscious and globally aware artists and designers. Our curriculum in fact is a fusion of studio courses and required liberal arts classes. So often when we discuss art and design education, we focus on the studio courses, but our liberal arts curriculum provides the comprehensive, worldly view for studio coursework. These courses create an awareness and a sense of responsibility by challenging our students to consider the historic, scientific and mindful value behind their work and to inspire new ways of thinking. For example, all of our students are actually required to take a science course to fulfill the liberal arts science component of their education. At Ringling, the courses offered in science are focused on environmental science with the aim of broadening their perspectives and encouraging them to consider the potential impact of their work beyond the classroom. How can they use their creative passion to solve larger, farther reaching issues that can ultimately help protect our precious planet?

An important and timely book, entitled This Spaceship Earth, was published just last year by our Professor of Environmental Science Tim Rumage and the Ringling College Futurist in Residence David Houle. The collaboration examines the role every human being plays in protecting the health of our planet. This dynamic duo argue that we are, in essence, a crew—a crew that has the opportunity to work in tandem toward a common goal of living sustainably. This is but one example of the culture of creative problem-solving and environmental awareness that we strive to instill in our burgeoning creatives.

Yes, the creative community indeed has a power. That is the power to question, to challenge and to flat out doubt the status quo. Furthermore, creative individuals can do something about it. Ringling College students, art and design students worldwide and practicing artists and designers themselves seek out new ways of thinking and then implement effective solutions. They write, build, sculpt, paint, carve and design change. They have the power to see the problem, bring it to light and inspire others to help move the needle.

There’s a beautiful quote by Bruce Mau in This Spaceship Earth:"The fundamental idea of design is to make the world a better place."  May we carry this notion with us beyond Earth Day and into our every day.

Larry Thompson is the president of Ringling College of Art and Design and a board member of the Science and Environmental Council of Southwest Florida. 

[The Detail]  Location, Location, Location
Cathy Antunes, cathycantunes@gmail.com

Why do you live in Sarasota? Whether natives or transplants, if you ask us why we chose to live here most Sarasotans list the natural environment as a major reason. Sarasota residents value our water and green space, so much so that we tax ourselves extra to purchase land for preservation. Weaving environmental preservation into commercial and residential development is a community value, so it is critical that standards and ordinances created to achieve sound environmental stewardship are upheld and not redefined by outside interests. The recent approval of a Whole Foods development on a preserved and functioning wetland and the subsequent litigation around this approval highlight important questions: Whose interests are going to be paramount in defining Sarasota County’s environmental standardsthose who live and work here, or those who wish to profit?

During the County Commission land-use hearing, a Whole Foods’ development representative described how the company looked at 12 locations before settling upon the forested wetland at the southwest corner of University Parkway and Honore Avenue. He described how Whole Foods has many metrics they consider before choosing a location. He mentioned demographics. I expect the company also looks at nearby population, incomes, competitors and their locations, such as the Fresh Market across the street from their preferred location. Whole Foods must also consider the cost of development. What’s more cost effective for Whole Foods? Building a new store on undeveloped land? Redeveloping an existing site? These are appropriate questions for Whole Foods to consider. 

According to testimony, of the 12 locations Whole Foods considered, the corner at University and Honore was “the only location that was viable for Whole Foods.” Really? I’ll bet there are a lot more than 12 possibilities for a Whole Foods site in northern Sarasota. It would be interesting, though, to know the locations of those 12 sites. How many were in blighted areas? How many were redevelopment opportunities? One thing is certain—in their search for a “viable” site, Whole Foods is looking to maximize their bottom line.

Local government exists to work for the public. In this case, county policy permits disrupting a wetland “when no other reasonable alternative exists.” The law doesn’t permit Whole Foods to define what “reasonable” is. By approving the Whole Foods development on a functioning wetland, our County Commission chose to permit Whole Foods to define what is reasonable, based on what is “viable” for their business. Our county’s environmental preservation policy became worthless in the process.

Whole Foods recently defended their plan by promising to repurpose the wetland forest they plan to destroy—into tables and wall art. As one citizen put it, this is akin to making a hunting trophy out of Cecil the Lion’s head.

Whole Foods can find another location. Redeveloping an existing site would be the “greenest” option. If Sarasota is to uphold our commitment to the environment, we can be sure more decisions like this one are in our future. In the end, a healthy environment is what keeps us all “viable.” 

Cathy Antunes serves on the boards of the Sarasota County Council of Neighborhood Associations and Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government. 

[SCOOP]  Goodwill Manasota Works Toward Zero Waste Through Salvage Partnerships

As Earth Day approaches, Goodwill Manasota is proud to be a leader of the "reduce, reuse, recycle" movement, engaging numerous salvage partners to maximize the amount image002.jpgof goods kept out of the trash heap. In 2015, Goodwill's donated goods business activities and salvage operations diverted 41 million pounds from area landfills.
Partnerships with businesses including Junk King Sarasota, Electronic Recycling Center, Pioneer Recycling, Premier Core Recycling, Re-Community Recycling, Rolloff Express, Symphony Salvage, Suncoast Metal and various other clothing and electronics stores, thrift shops and book stores keep millions of pounds of junk out of landfills while generating additional revenue for the partners and Goodwill.


Goodwill Manasota

[KUDOS]  Mote Marine honors Ron Ciaravella for 15 Years of Service

In Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium's annual volunteer awards ceremony President & CEO Dr. Michael P. Crosby lauded those who donate their time to Mote. Crosby praised Mote Trustee Ron Ciaravella for his 15 years of dedication and generosity with his time, expertise and resources.  “Ron has served Mote in amazing ways during his fifteen years as an active member of our Board, giving freely his time, expertise and resources. As owner of Dolphin Aviation — a name that we like, as a marine research institution — Ron has helped Mote expand our research, education and outreach programs and save time and expense —particularly now, as we’re frequently visiting the Florida Keys to lay the groundwork for our new 19,000-square-foot Summerland Key facility," Crosby said. 

Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium

[KUDOS]  Seidensticker Named Chair Elect of the Board of Directors of JFCS of the Suncoast

The Board of Directors of the Jewish Family & Children’s Service of the Suncoast, Inc. (JFCS), the premier social services agency headquartered in Sarasota and Manatee counties, Florida, has named Stephen (“Steve”) Seidensticker as its Chair Elect. Steve takes over responsibilities from the outgoing chair, Joe Mendels, on October 1 which is the start of the organization’s fiscal year. Steve joined the JFCS Board of Directors in 2013. He brings 40 years of experience in the hospitality industry to his new leadership role.  As a founder and CEO of Tableseide Restaurant Group, Steve maintains full responsibility for operations and strategic direction of large, upscale dining venues in Sarasota. These include Libby’s Café + Bar, Louie’s Modern, Muse at the Ringling, The Francis, Banyan Café, and Oak &Stone. 

Jewish Family & Children’s Service of the Suncoast, Inc.

[SCOOP]  Gulf Coast Community Foundation Announces 2016 Class of Gulf Coast Leadership Institute

Gulf Coast Community Foundation has selected 26 aspiring and experienced community leaders from across the region to participate in its 2016 Gulf Coast Leadership Institute. The class members will take part in an intensive, two-month leadership-development program led by faculty from the nationally recognized J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, a public service unit of the University of Georgia. For a list of the 26 participants selected for the 2016 Gulf Coast Leadership Institute visit the link below.  

Gulf Coast Community Foundation

[SCOOP]  Dockside Waterfront Grill in Venice Joins Gecko's Hospitality Group

Gecko’s Hospitality Group's Mike Quillen and Mike Gowan welcome the Dockside Waterfront Grill to their family of restaurants. Since 1950 when Venice pioneers Capt. Ben and Isa Mae Dunn broke ground on Fisherman’s Wharf Marina, the waterfront gem has endured as a local favorite in Venice. A destination with plenty of history, the waterfront restaurant also offers boat dockage, ample parking and exquisite views of Roberts and Dona Bay’s. Dockside Waterfront Grill’s open air dining under the tiki huts will soon be refreshed by Dockside’s authentic Florida seafood menu, some ‘family favorites’ from its siblings, a full plate of fresh, delicious fare and the top shelf hospitality that the Gecko’s Hospitality Group is known for. 

Gecko�s Hospitality Group

[SCOOP]  The 13th Annual Embracing Our Differences Exhibit Now Open

 Since 2004, Embracing Our Differences has used the power of art and education to promote diversity. One way it accomplishes this is through its annual outdoor public art exhibition consisting of 45 billboard-sized works of art, each accompanied by an inspirational quote. The response to this year’s call for artwork and inspirational quotes was stronger than ever, with more than 8,350 entries pouring in from 104 countries and 44 states. Students from 106 schools around the world submitted artwork or quotes to the juried exhibit; 40 of this year’s winners were students, and 38 of those were from local schools. The winning quotes and art will be showcased in the 13th-anniversary exhibit, through May 31, in Sarasota’s Island Park.  

Embracing Our Differences

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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