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SRQ DAILY Jul 9, 2016

Saturday Perspectives Edition

Saturday Perspectives Edition

"Imagine trying to master and learn to use that discipline entirely online. Not impossible maybe, but as unlikely as learning to play football well entirely online."

- Donal O'Shea, New College of Florida

[Under The Hood]  Incentives Could Define Senate Race
Jacob Ogles, jacob.ogles@srqme.com

Need evidence incentives will face judgment in elections this year? The Florida arm of Americans For Prosperity sent mailers this week criticizing state Rep. Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota, for his vote on an economic incentive and tax refund program this session. It didn’t sit well with Pilon, who is running for state Senate right now and just endorsed AFP’s “Reform Florida Agenda.” The mailer calls Pilon a supporter of “corporate welfare,” a charge the representative says is simply not true.

“They don’t know the difference between corporate welfare and taxpayer incentive dollars,” Pilon says. The incentives Pilon supports, he indicates, require a serious vetting and a rate of return on investment. It’s not like the Jeb Bush days of accountability-free grants. “But they don’t know the difference. They are very black and white about this. They have blinders on.”

Interestingly, AFP Florida Communications Manager Andres Malave agrees on that much. “We lay out clearly where we stand on this issue. It’s black and white for us,” Malave tells me. “We don’t move from those positions. With regard to corporate welfare in particular, we oppose it all.”

And this year, that opposition meant urging lawmakers to vote down Gov. Rick Scott’s top legislative priority, Enterprise Florida. “It’s not an easy task to look at a Republican-led Legislature, look them in the eye and say to oppose the governor’s chief piece of legislation,” Malave says. “It took enormous effort for activists.”

The Legislature did vote through a budget without $250 million in funding for Enterprise Florida something that prompted the resignation of the organization’s director—and which likely prompted the governor to veto just a little more than $250 million in spending just to make a point.

Pilon, though, notes he supported that budget, and boasted about defunding Enterprise. He says the vote being critiqued by AFP was a policy bill, one meant to reign in the organization. But it still allows for business and sports incentives, and that’s a problem for AFP.

Pilon also supported a recent decision by Sarasota County Commissioners to vote down an incentives package for a roofing company, including a match on state incentives. He’s suspicious the mailer was motivated by the ongoing Senate contest. AFP also sent a mailer praising state Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, who voted against the bill.

Malave, who once worked for former state Rep. Doug Holder, another candidate in the Senate contest, says the organization stays away from electioneering. In fact, AFP sent out letters critiquing every lawmaker who voted for this legislation, and praising everyone who voted against it. Notably, the organization last year sent out a mailer critiquing state Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, for supporting film incentives, even though she wasn’t seeking re-election (she was, as was well-known at the time, planning to run for Sarasota County Commission, a seat she recently won without opposition).

I’m certain AFP will be careful not to run afoul of rules, but the organization’s vocal stance on the issue will surely impact the Senate race, one of the most important contests in the state this year. A seven-person field (which also includes Republicans Nora Patterson and Rick Levine and Democrats Frank Alcock and Frank Cirillo) means every issue can have enormous effect in the field.

And AFP’s positions touch on local issues. The organization also praised Sarasota’s decision on the roofing incentives, and has criticized the county for engaging in negotiations trying to attract the Atlanta Braves here (incidentally, Pilon wants the team here as well, but promises to scrutinize any state incentives that may be involved). You can bet this isn’t the last time the issue comes up before voters weigh in.

Jacob Ogles is senior editor of SRQ Media Group. 

[High Education]  The Lunacy of Online Hype
Donal O'Shea, doshea@ncf.edu

What is it about online education that evokes truly idiotic pronouncements from seemingly thoughtful people?

Despite the availability of superb training videos and simulators, no one who would suggest that mastering a sport could be done entirely online. Indeed, the notion that online learning could supplant sports training camps and coaches in, say, football or soccer seems so naive that it is hard to know where to begin to criticize it. You can repeatedly watch a video showing how to throw a football or head a soccer ball, but nearly everyone understands that timing and practice matter. It almost goes without saying that teamwork must be practiced, and that coaching and motivation matter. Competition with other teams and collaboration with teammates elicit better performance.  

So, why do so many seemingly rational individuals opine publicly and unembarrassedly that online education will result in the demise of traditional university campuses? Consider any academic discipline with which you are comfortable—dance, history, philosophy, sociology, mathematics, chemistry, whatever—and imagine trying to master and learn to use that discipline entirely online. Not impossible maybe, but as unlikely as learning to play football well entirely online.    

We humans are intensely social. We learn best from others, and in the presence of others. We get discouraged and need encouragement and coaching. Mastering any substantial concept—natural selection, oxidation-reduction, rate of change—requires practice and testing in different contexts. And we learn best when we are in an environment where others are learning and interested in the same thing. We learn from each other, and from unmediated interaction between student and student, and student and professor.  

All of this is common sense, well known to anyone who has ever taught or who has ever struggled to master something difficult.  

But the past also offers some pretty compelling guidance. Our oldest universities date to well before the printing press, which was invented in 1436. By 1500, printing presses had popped up all over Europe and produced more than 20 million books. Any person of that time could be forgiven for thinking that cheaper, easily available books would have put the fledgling universities out of business.

But they did not. Quite the contrary.

Universities developed libraries, and books became an essential part of the instruction. Just as with books, online education will be an important component in how we teach and how we learn, and will help make it possible to learn more, faster. But as long as we humans continue to enjoy others’ physical presence, high quality residential universities will be the places of choice for achieving high-level disciplinary mastery, and for learning work with and to understand others. Count on it.   

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

[Education]  Campaign Slogans and Civics Education
Jennifer Vigne

Having just celebrated Independence Day—a July 4th holiday filled with road trips, beach excursions, barbeques and fireworks displays—it caused me to reflect on the very essence of our great country. In the midst of this year’s presidential election, we continue to hear catchy phrases and slick buzzwords that are designed to instill hope and confidence in a brighter future for America.

So I Googled past presidential campaign slogans to see which ones garnered mass appeal. Whether it was hope, change, believe in America, compassionate conservatism, prosperity and progress, building a bridge to the 21st century, the stakes are too high to stay at home, for the future, a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage, return to normalcy and don’t swap horses in the middle of the stream, I found myself smiling (albeit a little cynically) at the countless attempts to give promise and hope for America’s future.

For many Americans, civic responsibility doesn’t go much deeper than media soundbites and slogans with sizzle. Yet as we prepare to vote for our next President and other elected officials, the value of a civics education becomes visibly important.  

According to the Center for the Study of the American Dream at Xavier University, one in three Americans would fail the naturalization civics test that is administered to immigrants seeking American citizenship. The immigrants have a pass rate of more than 97 percent.

While most Americans can confidently answer elementary questions about basic geography and history (e.g. where is the capital of the United States located?), the struggles become evident on subjects covering the Constitution and the function of government. An astonishing 82 percent could not name two rights identified in the Declaration of Independence and 75 percent could not define the role of the judiciary branch.

America’s future lies in the hands of its people and the elected officials who represent us—it is not an either/or proposition. As such, it is incumbent upon us to educate ourselves and our children as a means to create independent, critical thinkers who will be able to discern the difference between catchy campaign slogans and real meaningful change.  

Get involved. Equip the next generation in civic responsibility. Read, read and then read some more. Active, engaged citizenship is an outcome of an educated society and it is the fabric that keeps our country woven together. If we really want to make America great again, investing in education is the best investment one could ever make.

Jennifer Vigne is executive director of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County. 

[The Report]  Sarasota's Shell Game
Susan Nilon, susan.nilon@gmail.com

A photo was posted on social media this week that showed the bicycle racks out in front of the Selby Library. It was actually hard to see the racks themselves because they were being used to support trash bags filled with items instead of the bicycles that there were intended for. At first glance, it looked like the garbage collectors forgot to do their job. But if you actually studied the photo, what you saw were evenly placed bags secured to the rack that were actually positioned with care.

The reason that the racks were so loaded with garbage bags is because several months ago, the Selby Library placed a ban on any large or numerous bags to be brought into the library. For most library patrons, it really did not impact their time in the library. But for the homeless who use the library as a place of respite each day, it presented a large problem. But they complied and found the only place that they could find to secure their belongings—the bicycle racks.

Today, another photo was placed on social media that showed two empty bike racks with a message of thanks to the county. As of July 1, Sarasota County changed the rules of personal property left outside unattended at the all government owned buildings, stating that it will be removed by the Sarasota Police Department if you are within the city limits and by the Sheriff’s department if you are within the county.   

While most likely all passersby are relieved to see a clutter-free sight outside of the library, those of us who work with the homeless do not rejoice in the removal of their belongings. This effort is the epitome of how our local government continues the elimination of the homeless. From one block to the next, the homeless are moved around like the ball in a shell game. 

This past January was the last time that we heard of an effort to build a shelter to house the homeless. And while the decision was made not to pursue any of the three properties that were under consideration due to costs, seven months later to the day, it really feels like our local government just gave into the vocal minority who have solely focused on just getting rid of the homeless. Short-term solutions that only service those more fortunate are what we witness day in and day out in our community.  

At one point in time, we championed the County Commission for being the people who put on their big pants to take on the long term solutions of the problems of the homeless. But now they have faded into the over-crowded background of people who are hoping that someone else picks up the baton.  

With temperatures soaring into the category of “feels like” 103 degrees outside, just where are the homeless supposed to go to seek relief? And where are they supposed to lay their head every night?  

Good for you Sarasota. In a microcosm of problem solvers, all you’ve been able to accomplish is pushing the problem onto the next unsuspecting neighborhood who will be as equally unprepared to handle the issues of homelessness as you are.

Susan Nilon of The Nilon Report. 

[Letter from Christine Baer]  Community Supports Soto
Christine Baer

Who determined that Ron Soto caused “widespread disgust and outrage”? Who is the “local community” you are claiming identified him as the “meanest city’s meanest man”?  Who are you referring to, or what group are you claiming defines that “local community”?

You further claim Soto Optical's Facebook rating plummeted from a 5 to a 1.7 stars as the “community fought back”—this is your allegation. Truth is, the “community” never fought back. This was an active campaign solely by you and your followers on your Facebook page (most of your followers being from Tampa not Sarasota and thus in no way "local") to intentionally besmirch the reputation of Ron Soto and undermine a long established and well-respected brick-and-mortar business in Downtown Sarasota. 

You wrote “I thought I should sound the alarm on this guy” urging your Facebook followers to “Let him know what you think...Leave a review.” This is what you wrote on your Facebook page.

Let me briefly educate you about the character of the “meanest city’s meanest man.” His altruism and dedication to the community of Sarasota is boundless. Ron Soto has given bus tickets to runaways and street people that wish to return home. He has given street people money and food to aid them. He personally picks up the trash they leave in the park. His Downtown Cares program that he initiated has generated thousands of dollars for benevolent organizations whose missions are to aid the homeless. This in the wake of businesses closing and moving away from Downtown Sarasota to free themselves from the burden of this homeless situation.

In closing, all I can say is shame, shame, shame on you. What you are saying and inciting is unconscionable.

Christine Baer, Sarasota Downtown Merchants Association, responding to a letter from Bryan Ellis in the July 2 edition of SRQ Daily. 

[SCOOP]  Goodwill, Girl Scouts, Junior League Collab on the Runway

Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida and Goodwill Manasota are partnering with Junior League of Sarasota to host the Little Black Dress with Pop! fashion show on Friday, July 22. The event will feature Junior League role models wearing little black dresses selected at area Goodwill retail stores and then embellished with a pop of color, with the help and creativity of local Girl Scouts. Junior League participants were teamed up with Girl Scouts to select simple black sheaths and then create looks to rival those on Project Runway. The girls interviewed the adult participants about their professional development and learned about what their jobs entail. During the mentoring session, Miss Central Florida 2016 and former Girl Scout, Samantha Hyatt, stopped in to give an inspirational talk to the Girl Scouts. She also provided some pointers to the Junior League models on posing and walking the runway.  

Goodwill Manasota

[SCOOP]  Community Foundation Awards $12,500

Single mothers will receive free parenting education and mental health services, thanks in part to a $12,500 grant from the Edward K. Roberts Fund at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. The services will be provided through Forty Carrots Family Center’s Free Community Outreach program. “All parents, regardless of socioeconomic status, age or other factors, deserve access to information, education and support in order to do the best possible job raising their children,” says Michelle Kapreilian. “This generous grant will allow us to work with single mothers addressing their unique needs. We are so grateful to the Foundation for partnering with us in our work to strengthen families.” 

Forty Carrots

[KUDOS ]  Gulf Coast Community Foundation Elects Board Officers

Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s Board of Directors recently elected Jay McHargue as Chair and Judy Cahn as Vice Chair for a one-year term. McHargue is senior resident director and senior vice president of wealth management of the Picazio/McHargue Group at Merrill Lynch in Venice. He has served on the Gulf Coast Board since 2009. Cahn, a community volunteer and philanthropist who previously worked for 35 years in investment banking, has been a Gulf Coast Board member since 2011. The Gulf Coast Board also reelected four members to new, three-year terms: Scott Collins, Pauline Joerger, Bayne Stevenson and Tommy Taylor. The other members of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation Board are Lisa Carlton, Janis Fawn, James Gallogly, Ben Hanan, Phil Humann, Anand Pallegar, Mark Pritchett, Michael Saunders and Joe Stephan. 

Gulf Coast Community Foundation

[SOON]  Music on Main Street Benefits Selah Freedom

Join Selah Freedom on Lakewood Ranch Main Street from 6pm–9pm for Music on Main, a concert series and block party for the public. This event is hosted on the First Friday of each month and will supply lots of family fun. Selah Freedom is excited to be the highlighted charity on Friday, August 5 and will be selling beer to raise funds for their mission to end sex trafficking and bring freedom to the exploited. 100 percent of the proceeds from beer sales will fuel Selah Freedom’s programs serving survivors of sex trafficking in our community.  

Selah Freedom

[SCOOP]  Beat the Heat this Summer at The Ringling

Drop in anytime throughout the afternoon at The Ringling on Saturdays for a Family Workshop. Families do not need to buy admission or register to participate. Simply drop-in anytime during the scheduled hours and enjoy an art project at your own pace. Workshops take place in the Welcome Center in the Visitors Pavilion. Adult caregivers are encouraged to participate alongside their children, trying their hand at art-making and modeling their appreciation for the arts. While designed for children ages 4–10, this program is open to both the young and young at heart. 

The Ringling

[SCOOP]  SMH Welcomes New General Surgeon

Sarasota Memorial Health Care System welcomes new general surgeon and former US Air Force colonel Eric Suescun, MD, FACS to the health system’s First Physicians Group (FPG) network and community. Dr. Suescun is a board certified general surgeon and military veteran who spent years caring for injured soldiers and civilians in Afghanistan and other war-torn countries. Dr. Suescun relocated and accepted the FPG position after retiring from the Air Force’s 88th Surgical Operations Squadron in June. His specialties include a full range of endocrine, breast, hepatobiliary, hernia, foregut, thyroid, colorectal, minimally invasive and anterior spinal exposures. 

Sarasota Memorial Health Care System

[KUDOS ]  Pines of Sarasota Earns National Recognition

Pines of Sarasota Rehabilitation and Senior Care Community is one of 70 national winners (10 in Florida) of the American Health Care Association’s (AHCA) Silver Quality Award.This honor is part of the prestigious National Quality Awards program conducted by the AHCA and the National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL). This award recognizes providers across the nation that have demonstrated their commitment to improving quality of care for residents and patients in long term and post-acute care centers and communities. 

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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