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SRQ Daily Jun 25, 2016

Saturday Perspectives Edition

Saturday Perspectives Edition

"There are places between the extremes where reasonable gun regulation should at least be considered. But the gun lobby and the lawmakers frightened by them have done everything in their power to prevent discussion."

- Jacob Ogles, SRQ Media Group
 

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

In a recent e-mail to County Commissioner Paul Caraguilo, a resident of the Foxfire neighborhood expressed concern about how the construction of 200 new homes (Waverly—a Medallion Homes/Carlos Beruff project) is impacting his home and family. The pond in his yard no longer has fish or turtles. The water level has never been so low, and the water in the pond is extremely dirty. This resident reports deep digging “on the landfill” behind his house, and how landfill dirt is being used to fill in a flooded-out road. Dust is kicked up on the road by trucks, right near where his children play. "Is the dust contaminated?" he asks. He writes: "The developers have been pumping the landfill and other areas and releasing the water on top of the landfill. How can this be right?"

The Foxfire landfills (20 and 70 acres) opened around 1940 and were closed in 1972. They became golf courses in 1975, and those were closed in 2006 due to environmental contamination. 

A 2008 Department of Environmental Protection report lists landfill and adjacent tests showing barium, benzo(a)pyrene, benzene, arsenic and cumulative Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH) levels beyond acceptable residential levels. The arsenic and PAH concentrations also exceeded acceptable industrial levels. 

A request to build 200 new homes alongside the two unlined former Foxfire landfills was denied by the County Commission in 2013 due to contamination concerns. Prolific County Commission campaign and PAC donor Carlos Beruff subsequently purchased the land in May 2014, and six months later—voila!—the request to permit residential development was approved.

The new homes are not being built directly on top of the landfills, but right next to them. A portion of the development will be sandwiched between the two landfills. Would you buy one of them? Would you want your children to live there?

The side-stepping of concerns about contamination from these landfills has been jaw-dropping. During the 2013 planning commission hearing, Mike Moran asked the county attorney whether or not he and other planning commissioners have a duty to consider testimony of potential toxic contamination in their vote on the rezone, or if that was a job for other agencies. The attorney replied that planning commissioners have broad license to consider how the health, safety and welfare of neighboring residents would be impacted. Moran responded: “So in other words, if a Commissioner here felt tonight that the land was contaminated and unsafe for use based on the testimony, not any testing that was done, it would not be grounds for a vote to decline the project?”

Mr. Moran wants to be your new County Commissioner. The big development “Growth Machine” is funding his campaign (yes, including Beruff).

This is the “Growth Machine” business model: buy cheap rural land and rezone it for residential development. Like rural land, contaminated land is pretty cheap, too. Who cares about potential cancer clusters? After all, there’s nowhere else to build. Oh wait—there is.

How can this be right? It isn’t.

Cathy Antunes serves on the board of Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government. 

[Higher Education]  Bolstering Our Film Industry Through Collaboration
Dr. Larry Thompson, lthompso@ringling.edu

When opportunity meets empowerment, the unexpected happens. Ideas and abstraction become plans. That is how I feel about the emerging film industry in Florida and especially the Sarasota-Manatee community. Our region, which I often call the “Creative Coast,” has long been home to artists, as well as art patrons and enthusiasts, including talented filmmakers—both aspiring and recognized. Ringling College of Art and Design is one arm in the collaborative effort to bring, support and retain talented filmmakers to the state and to the region, and we are working with our partners and co-collaborators in the efforts to bring this dream to life.

This week, Film Florida held its annual board meeting at Ringling College, marking the first time the organization has convened in Sarasota. The event was brought to Sarasota by Jeanne Corcoran, our tireless county film commissioner. This group of commissioners and advocates, the national arm representing film in our state, toured the campus and the city and honored Senator Nancy Detert for her continued dedication to and support of the film industry. We are so proud to be connected with this organization and our district leadership to promote our students, our innovative production model and our regional and state film initiatives.

Providing opportunity and support is Ringling College’s piece of this puzzle. Our Film initiative is centered on the idea that the best talent comes from myriad backgrounds, geographies and ideologies, and we aim to bring the best of the best to the region through our rapidly growing Film major—named among the Top Film Colleges in the US by The Hollywood Reporter, our new Soundstage and Post Production Complex and the Ringling College Studio Lab, a collaboration with the private company, Semkhor Networks. Our scholarships help bring students with drive and talent to the west coast of Florida to work with our community and industry partners and take advantage of our professional equipment, opportunities for shooting on professional sets and brand-new facilities. Just last month, we announced an exciting opportunity to partner with WEDU, another member of our community that supports our goals for video and film growth in the region.

And the collaborative efforts of Ringling College and the greater Sarasota community have not gone unnoticed! This month alone, two Sarasota-based films premiered in New York City. First was the Sundance-selected film, Dark Night, directed by world-renowned filmmaker Tim Sutton who used mostly Ringling College students as crew. The second was Paradise, FL, a production of the House of John, TriForce Pictures, Media Management Global and Ringling College. These two films were produced with the support of Ringling College and shot in and around Sarasota. Our community came together to support the production from all angles, from catering to wardrobe rentals, hotels and equipment rentals. And in return, our city and regional economy has benefitted from the collaboration, proving how impactful film production can be to a community. In addition, our students just completed shooting a Semkhor-produced web series with Golden Globe winner Dylan McDermott, a collaboration conceived and created right in our backyard. And the list goes on and on. These achievements are the results of the combined efforts of an entire region coming together. 

Yes, great things are happening right here in Sarasota. But, great things don’t just happen on their own. As the saying goes, it takes a village. We are one arm of the effort, but all of the arms have to work together to create opportunities and support our artists. So many of us in the community are working together to build the ideal environment for existing and emerging film talent to come and stay here in Florida. For one organization it may seem like a giant task, but together we can change the face of the industry. 

Dr. Larry R. Thompson is president of Ringling College of Art and Design. 

[City Government]  The Safe Cities Initiative
Tom Barwin, Thomas.Barwin@sarasotagov.com

The day after local resident Eddie Sotomayor and 48 others lost their lives in the Orlando tragedy, the City Commission and I attended a very moving vigil in honor of the mass shooting victims.

The gathering at Selby Five Points Park in Downtown Sarasota was one of the most moving events I have ever attended. Still numb over his loss, Eddie's father was in attendance.    

The vigil was attended by over 1,500. No political speeches were allowed. Standing on the porch of the Selby Library, overlooking a sea of sparkling candles at dusk, the pain and sadness over the loss of so many kind, innocent and young people was palpable.  

In a sign of the times, I scanned the crowd for assault weapons. I wished my mind did not have to work that way.   

The LGBT-friendly crowd was fearless in their resolve to respect and celebrate the lives of the lost while expressing the hope that those lives would not be lost in vain.  

As leaders of our community, charged with passing and enforcing laws and policies to keep the peace in a diverse, robust civic environment, it was a natural and appropriate thought for elected and appointed city officials to wonder what could be done to prevent more Orlandos.    

Exactly one week to the hour of the vigil, I was extremely proud of our City Commission and community for having the guts, courage and fortitude to participate in what is becoming a grassroots-driven, national dialogue on how to prevent more Orlandos.

I would also like to note and thank the citizens who attended the Commission meeting to discuss the Safe Cities Resolution. The public comment from all sides, albeit lengthy, was helpful, insightful, at times entertaining and sincerely appreciated.

Too often, regular citizens and those on the front lines of keeping the peace are overlooked or remiss in providing input and insight into what must become a much tighter local, state and national partnership to keep our cities safe.

The narrowly framed advisory resolution had no legal authority to impact local, state or federal gun laws but was a simple plea for help from those in power who can help.

The resolution asked for State and Federal officials to consider restoring the High Capacity Assault Rifle Regulation that was in place until 2004. The rules limiting these high-powered weapons to the military and bona fide police departments were originally advanced by former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. Bush. Today, polls indicate a growing majority of American citizens support restoring reasonable high-caliber assault weapons restrictions.

The sense at the vigil was that something has to be done. The sense at the City Commission table last Monday night was that something can be done when the good citizens of America begin to engage in thoughtful conversation, listen to each other and begin to search for common ground and compromise.  

In case you didn't hear, unfortunately the Safe Cities Resolution and possible amendments to it were not able to be forwarded to Congress for fear of threatened litigation by gun advocates and NRA affiliates under interpretations of state law prohibiting local input on firearms regulations. That is another, and perhaps even bigger story, for another day.   

Although this issue seems to be one of the most difficult and charged issues in America, all who participated in the Sarasota debate clearly had one thing in common: we all want to live, work and play in safe communities. We all want our policemen, firemen, our children, friends, loved ones and ourselves to come home every day as we cherish the gift of life, each other and our time here in peaceful communities. Perhaps if the debate focuses more on that, we may find common ground. And the sooner the better!

Thank you for taking the time to read this month’s column.

Tom Barwin is Sarasota City Manager. 

[Under The Hood]  Shooting Down Debate
Jacob Ogles, jacob.ogles@srqme.com

People hold strong opinions on the right to bear arms, but voters of all persuasions should note just how resistant gun rights proponents have been to even engaging in conversation. Democrats in Washington have filibustered and conducted a sit-in during the most recent push for gun control votes in Washington. But the starkest example of conversation-stopping techniques may be in the City of Sarasota.

Sarasota City Commissioners this week were set to pass a resolution asking state and federal leaders to restrict access to assault weapons. The key word is “asking.” Municipal officials in Florida have no authority to limit gun access, and restrictions that simply send buyers outside the city limits would only serve symbolic purpose anyhow. But City Attorney Robert Fournier uncovered a surprising part of a 2011 law that scared local officials from even posturing on the issue.

Turns out the same statute that blocks gun regulation also allows citizens to sue city commissions for, well, just about anything involving guns. An affected party that can bring action would include any “person or organization whose membership is adversely affected by any ordinance, regulation, measure, directive, rule, order or policy promulgated.” By Fournier’s reading, that includes a resolution asking higher bodies to regulate guns. And worse, any official that “willfully” violates this would be subject to a fine and legal action themselves, one that won’t be covered by city dollars. It’s a huge risk to commissioners to vote for such a resolution, one four out of five city commissioners were unwilling to take. Most likely, they will now ask Attorney General Pam Bondi for a read on the law. Now I think Fournier’s reading on the law is pretty strict, but it also feels unlikely Bondi, who dreams of the word “Governor” appearing in front of her name very soon, would come down a different way on this. Besides, lawmakers like state Rep. Greg Steube made very strong statements against the Sarasota resolution, so the idea that the Legislature intended anything short of a gag order for cities on guns seems unlikely.

And that’s the problem. Fournier suggests in a memo to commissioners the lawsuit provision of the law could simply be lawmakers’ “characteristic sloppy drafting.” As if lawmakers themselves wrote this law. A bill with this exact language was introduced in North Carolina in 2013, which at least shows lobbyists shopped this language nationwide since its passage in Florida. And groups like Florida Carry, which has sued multiple jurisdictions for running astray of this law.

I want to make clear, I’m no opponent of the Second Amendment. I don't particularly like the idea that law enforcement can use a type of weapon the law-abiding citizens cannot legally use themselves. If I were a city commissioner, I couldn’t support the resolution as written, but I would have tried to make some amendments to make the document something I could support.

The most recent conversation was born out of a tragedy where a man interviewed by the FBI three times was allowed to buy an assault weapon before killing dozens of people. He did so in a state where it takes 72 hours to buy a handgun and less than an hour to buy a semi-automatic rifle. One of the men murdered at Pulse this month was Sarasotan Eddie Sotomayor. City leaders responded by engaging a conversation that needs to be had. There are places between the extremes where reasonable gun regulation should at least be considered. But the gun lobby and the lawmakers frightened by them have done everything in their power to prevent discussion.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor for SRQ Media Group. 

[Letter from Evan Guido]  Fallout from Brexit
Evan Guido

The UK voted to leave the European Union yesterday, which has resulted in turmoil in the global financial markets. Although the outcome of the vote was seen as close, it nevertheless came as a surprise given the level of pressure by the political powers in Europe. Markets around the globe rallied in front of the vote anticipating a positive outcome and this added to the selling pressure today as those positions are unwound. The UK vote was significant given that Britain joined the EU in the early 1970s as a result of a weak economy relative to the rest of the continent. The situation reversed in recent years with the British economy outpacing much of the Eurozone, which, in addition to a divided view on immigration, was the breeding ground for bolting from the EU.

The implications of the UK vote are significant and widespread. The fear is that this will encourage other nations, including Spain and Italy, that may also have designs on leaving the safety of the economic block. The uncertainty surrounding the vote on the financial markets and the political establishment will be far-reaching. The immediate response has been steep declines in equity markets around the world. In addition, there has been severe turmoil in the currency markets, which could hurt the global economy for a period of time. Volatile currency markets make it more difficult for businesses to forecast long-term needs. Gold prices have soared as a safe haven, which is another indication that an excessive level of fear is present. The fear and turmoil will likely cause the central bankers to add a large measure of liquidity to help stabilize the situation. 

For US investors, the weakness in the equity markets is anticipated to be short-lived. The uncertainty in Europe is likely to cause foreign investors to increase exposure to US securities over the intermediate term. The Federal Reserve is anticipated to place on hold any rate hike until late in the year or into 2017. Although US multinational companies will be concerned about the short-term implications, it could be argued that reduced regulation in the UK could encourage pro-business reforms by the EU that eventually would help stimulate trade. The fact that the UK split has been the cause of widespread concern for a number of months suggests that many investors have already sold or taken hedged positions. The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) has soared more than 30 percent overnight suggesting that extreme fear is entering the market, which typically precedes a market low. Support for the S&P 500 is in the vicinity of 2000 to 2025. The financial sector is expected to take the brunt of the selling as a result of the UK exit and has been ranked near the bottom of the relative strength rankings for quite some time. The strongest sectors are utilities, materials and industrials.

Bottom line: Investors should maintain current asset allocation levels of exposure to stocks. Stocks do not typically bottom in front of a weekend so the weakness could carry forward into next week.

Evan Guido is director of The Evan Guido Group with Baird. 



[SCOOP]  Summer Sun and Summer Fun Family Getaway

Enjoy a fun-filled three-night family getaway at The Resort at Longboat Key Club. This exclusive Summer Sun and Summer Fun Family Getaway package includes three nights of luxurious accommodations or longer, breakfast served daily in Sands Point Restaurant for up to five guests, one-day admission to Mote Marine Aquarium for up to five guests, one day admission to Save Our Seabirds Wild Bird Learning Center for up to five guests and a sea turtle plush toy for each child under 12. 

Longboat Key Club

[KUDOS]  Van Wezel Foundation Receives Grant

The Van Wezel Foundation has gratefully received a $20,000 grant from the Cordelia Lee Beattie Foundation. The grant will be used to continue the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall’s Total Access to the Arts Program, which has been funded by the Cordelia Lee Beattie Foundation since 2011. The Total Access to the Arts Program has been designed to provide local families with young children facing financial challenges the opportunity to experience several live performances at the Van Wezel over the course of the season free of charge accompanied by a pre-show dinner. The Cordelia Lee Beattie Foundation will send up to twenty families to two or more performances during the 2016–2017 main stage season.  

[SCOOP]  Goodwill, The Law Place Honor Women Veterans

More than 100 community members gathered for the Salute the Runway Fashion Show and Dinner, an event to honor women veterans, presented by Goodwill Manasota and The Law Place. Guests enjoyed a lovely rendition of The Star Spangled Banner courtesy of Goodwill Manasota vice president and Mistress of Ceremonies Veronica Brandon Miller. Dinner selections came from Anna Maria Oyster Bar, Carmel Kitchen, Pizza SRQ, Kona Grill, Oak & Stone and Sift Bake House, with a keynote speech by Retired Colonel Linda Gould, who shared details from her 30 years of service in the US Army and talked about the difficulty veterans can face when returning to their communities and families. A fashion show featured nine area women veterans. Veterans walking the runway wore beautiful evening gowns found at local Goodwill retail stores for just $5.99 or $12.99, a fraction of their original cost.   

Goodwill

[SOON]  Sit Happens

The Humane Society of Sarasota County (HSSC) has added another Basic Obedience 1. Class starts this Saturday, June 25, at 10am in the HSSC training center, located at the shelter. It is a weekly one-hour class that lasts for six weeks. In this class you will use positive reinforcement to teach your  furry friend commands like "sit," "down," "come," "stay" and you'll practice walking on a leash. There's still time to register, but don't wait. Class size is limited. The class fee is $80.  

The Humane Society of Sarasota County

[SCOOP]  Perlman Seeking Local Violinists

The Perlman Music Program/Suncoast (PMP/Suncoast) is seeking violinists between the ages of 8–18 from Florida to participate in the 4th annual Super Strings program. Students have the opportunity to play under the direction of internationally acclaimed violinist and conductor, Itzhak Perlman during one of the public rehearsals of the PMP Sarasota Winter Residency. Deadline for application and video is Sept. 5th. There is a small fee if chosen and scholarships are available. 

Perlman Music Program/Suncoast

[KUDOS]  Scott Anderson Hired as VP of Philanthropy

Scott Anderson will join the Jewish Housing Council Foundation as vice president of Philanthropy. Anderson served most recently as senior philanthropic advisor for almost 10 years with Gulf Coast Community Foundation, a longstanding supporter of the Jewish Housing Council Foundation and Kobernick-Anchin-Benderson. In addition to his decade of experience in philanthropy with the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Anderson serves as a volunteer for multiple community organizations, has served as senior account executive for Herald-Tribune Media Group and held management positions with GTE.  

Kobernick-Anchin-Benderson

[SOON]  UCI BMX Supercross World Cup

The world’s best BMX racers, including newly crowned Olympic Champions, will be racing for the World Cup title in Sarasota at the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup on October 8–9. While this is the oldest track in the nation, it is undergoing renovations now to turn it into a state-of-the-art track for amateurs and professionals. The track will open in July.   

Sarasota BMX

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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