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SRQ DAILY Aug 27, 2016

Saturday Perspectives Edition

Saturday Perspectives Edition

"Predicting growth has been an inexact art. Growth is also a mixed bag with many challenges in terms of governments collectively anticipating it in a timely fashion, adjusting to it, paying for it and protecting the environment and quality of life associated with previous eras."

- Tom Barwin, Sarasota City Manager
 

[Under The Hood]  Don't Silence Party Leaders
Jacob Ogles, jacob.ogles@srqme.com

A small uproar arose this month when a Democratic volunteer handed out a sample ballot suggesting a vote for Frank Alcock in a local state Senate race. Pretty soon, video of upset opponent Frank Cirillo could be viewed online. “The party is not supposed to take sides,” he says. “The party is not supposed to play favorites.”

As it happened, the party hadn’t. Sarasota Democratic Party chair Christine Jennings says the volunteer acted out of turn, and the chair sent an email to individuals working polls reminding the organization had not selected one Democrat over another. So things have seemingly smoothed over, and the party in the general election will back whoever wins this primary, whether it's Alcock, a college professor long-engaged in Florida politics or Cirillo, a recent college grad. Thank goodness, wouldn’t want to push anybody in a certain direction there.

But really, who cares if the party had supported Alcock? To be clear, the organization should support whomever voters select as a nominee this Tuesday, but given that obligation, it’s not crazy for leadership in a political organization to suggest one Frank has greater viability in November. And some individuals in the organization have made preferences known. Keith Fitzgerald, who teaches with Alcock at New College of Florida, took a leave of absence as Sarasota County’s Democratic state committeeman so he could help his colleague’s campaign.

Incidentally, that video of a concerned Cirillo was posted by Christian Ziegler, Republican state committeeman for Sarasota. “It's a shame to see that the Sarasota County Democratic Party is aggressively pushing one of their local Democratic candidates,” Ziegler writes. Yet Ziegler that the same week posted a lengthy endorsement of Teresa Mast, who is running against Caroline Zucker on the Sarasota County School Board. Considering Ziegler’s wife Bridget also serves on the board, that move caused consternation as well.

But it shouldn’t. Ziegler knows the issues of the School Board and has an opinion to share. Likewise Fitzgerald, who served four years in the Florida House. Joe Gruters, the Republican Party of Sarasota chairman who for years stayed neutral in primaries, has his own state House primary this year where he must take sides, and he backed Donald Trump in the presidential primary. Jennings, who won’t pick faves in the Senate primary, hosted fundraisers for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

These individuals stress, of course, that they endorse only as individuals, not on behalf of their parties. It should be remembered, though, that parties in Florida don’t administer elections. It’s hip these days to run against the establishment, but the establishment is really a bunch of individuals who follow politics more attentively than most. They aren’t the only informed voices worth hearing, nor is their opinion absolute. But when politically active people turn their knowledge into influence, it should be welcomed, not condemned. Often, people suggest organizations be punished for backing the wrong horse—or the right one. Liberals in Florida remain angry President Obama has backed Patrick Murphy over Alan Grayson in the US Senate Democratic primary. But then Murphy threw a hissy fit and tried to decertify the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida for attracting Grayson into the race.

That caucus, as it happens, also backed Cirillo this year. And he should be proud of that, as any endorsement is worth having. But while primaries can reset the future of a party, that doesn’t mean opinions of leaders today should be discredited. Party organizations should back who its leaders choose. And when voters hold different opinions, they can take comfort their own voice will be counted the same at the ballot box as party regulars.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor of SRQ Media Group. 

[City Government]  Growth and Sustainability
Tom Barwin, Thomas.Barwin@sarasotagov.com

The US Census Bureau has estimated that between 2010 and 2015, the City of Sarasota's population has increased by 3,201 residents. This 6.1 percent population increase since 2010 brings our updated population count to 55,118 full-time residents.  

The updated Census estimates peg our current population to be 6,250 more residents than were here 36 years ago when the 1980 census counted 48,868. Most of the growth within the city over the past three decades is a fairly recent, post-Great Recession trend.   

The rest of Sarasota County has experienced a similar rate of population growth, raising the county population to over 400,000. And the Sarasota-Manatee region’s recent population increases resulted in the region being identified as one of America's 20 fastest growing regions on our way to a collective population of at least 800,000 by the next official census in 2020. This has occurred as the Sunshine State Peninsula has become the third most populated state in the country with over 20 million residents.   

For mostly economic reasons, growth has generally been considered a positive and preferable to the population losses so many manufacturing-based American communities struggled with over the past few decades.  

But predicting growth has been an inexact art. Growth is also a mixed bag with many challenges in terms of governments collectively anticipating it in a timely fashion, adjusting to it, paying for it and protecting the environment and quality of life associated with previous eras.

If a community in a desirable region could legally ban residential and workplace growth (hard to do under Florida Law) or adopt slow growth policies within its boundaries, it would not prevent shifting residential and workplace growth to nearby areas or eliminate a flow-back effect into the slow growth community.       

These are really important issues that require collaborative mindsets and strategic thinking. Moving forward, our cities, the region, its residents and the hodge-podge of regional organizations charged with coordinating growth must work hand in glove from the baseline of current comprehensive plans, zoning codes, tax bases, transportation networks and water, sewer, sanitation, educational and medical infrastructure to envision, plan and implement a high quality future while striving to enhance the regions quality of life and environment.  

Realizing the challenges and opportunity population growth represents, the Sarasota City Commission is in the process of finalizing its updated strategic plan and goals. The commission’s strategic planning process was driven by the desire to manage growth within our borders and more proactively participate in the appropriate regional decision-making forums related to growth strategies and response options. 

The seven top strategic initiatives in the City Commission draft strategic plan can be summarized as follows:

Growth Management: Sustain the special character of the city, advance mobility options and peak hour/season traffic management strategies. 

Arts and Culture: Respect and enhance our community’s rich history, arts and culture. 

Parks and Recreation: Maintain and improve parks and programs to provide year-round, healthy outdoor activity for residents.

Residents and Neighborhood: Support all neighborhoods to be safe, attractive and unique.

Health and Safety: Seek solutions to the mental health funding crisis, address homelessness and continue to advance partnership policing.

Environmental Preservation and Sustainability: Recognize the vital role our natural resources play in a healthy community and economy and implement projects and initiatives that sustain them.  

Operations and Administration: Meet the expectations of today's citizens by providing modern, convenient and technologically progressive services.  

The City Commission will be finalizing the details of the city's updated strategies and associated initiatives and goals this fall. 

As Benjamin Franklin and Sir Winston Churchill both proclaimed, “He who fails to plan is planning to fail.”    

Thank you for taking the time to read this month’s column. As always the City Commission and I welcome your comments, questions and suggestions. Forward any thoughts you may have on this or related subjects to: thomas.barwin@sarasotagov.com.

Thomas Barwin is Sarasota City Manager. 

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

Sarasota’s only competitive school board race will be decided on August 30. Two of the school board seats are being decided during this election cycle, but only one of those races will result in a school board member being elected by having to compete for the support of Sarasota voters. Coordination between PACs and some candidates are blatant in this school board election.  

In the District 3 school board race, incumbent school board member Frank Kovach chose not to run again, saying the election process has been “corrupted by cash.” The District 3 seat is being filled by Eric Robinson, who receives a tidy income stream from his PAC management activities in Sarasota and other Florida elections. For instance, In 2014, Robinson’s company, Robbie’s LLC, received a $140,000 consulting fee from a Sarasota political committee he managed. State records show contributions to Robinson political committees total over $5 million. Included in this figure are contributions to Citizens for Florida Prosperity, which lists County Commissioner Christine Robinson as its registered agent, Eric Robinson as its treasurer and $645,000 in donations. The other committees list Eric Robinson as both registered agent and treasurer. Guess the Robinson’s like to keep their PAC activity in the family.  

Eric Robinson is walking onto the School Board’s District 3 seat unopposed. Two other candidates had filed to run, but ultimately chose to withdraw. One has to wonder if taking on one of the state’s biggest PAC operatives was a factor in their decision. With the ability to swing tens of thousands of dollars in his campaign’s direction, any opponent of Eric Robinson would understand that the financial advantage belongs to him.

An advertisement criticizing a School Board incumbent running for re-election, Caroline Zucker, was paid for by a political committee called “Sarasota Citizens for Our Schools.” The PAC’s address belongs to Robinson’s accounting firm. A press report indicates that Robinson recently resigned as the treasurer of the PAC, with the husband of Zucker’s opponent, Teresa Mast, taking over as treasurer. So candidate Mast’s husband is working for the PAC attacking Zucker.

Robinson claims he was not involved in Sarasota Citizens for Our Schools negative advertisement. He told the Herald Tribune: “When they told me [the advertisement] would happen, I took my money out of it. I was going to use that PAC for my office race, but when they told me they were going to use it for Mast, I took my money out.” So Robinson admits it’s his money, and that he was running a PAC on behalf of his own campaign.

The money “taken out” by Robinson is a $35,000 contribution made by Sarasota Citizens for Our Schools to another Robinson PAC, Legal Reform Now. Sarasota Citizens for Our Schools received its major funding from Robinson PAC Build Something that Lasts. A review of the Build Something That Lasts donor list reveals Gary Chartrand, who sits on the board of directors of Jacksonville’s KIPP charter schools, a corporate charter school entity. 

At least Robinson and Mast’s ties, and a corporate charter school agenda, are becoming clear.

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

[Higher Education]  From Local Partnerships Stem Global Opportunities
Dr. Larry Thompson, lthompso@ringling.edu

It all starts here. Sarasota and Manatee counties are evolving and expanding to accommodate new talent and ideas. We are discovering new ways to work together to expand our reach and impact. At no time is this more relevant than at the start of the academic year. Every August we welcome an influx of fresh thinkers hungry for the opportunity to learn, grow and contribute. In fact, this year we are embracing nearly 13,000 new students collectively.

Gone are the days when students sat in classrooms, fenced off from the community. Our students, and those at neighboring institutions along the Creative Coast, collaborate with local and regional businesses, get involved with events and seize opportunities to gain work experience while building their résumés and portfolios and helping the community.

It is our job as established organizations and institutions to provide access and opportunities that strengthen our community and raise the profile of our region. Working together, we are attracting and retaining talent, delivering unrivaled education and experiences and evolving to consider new ways of thinking and creating.

And these collaborations pay off. This summer, our returning students worked here and all over the globe to enhance their creative skills and bring expertise to the area. Through a unique partnership with the International Center for Photography, we sent a student to New York for a year to study and make valuable connections. Our film students wrapped production of Dylan McDermott’s web series, Sugar, and this past week we were named no. 16 of the 2016 Top American Film Schools by the Hollywood Reporter—the youngest film program to make the list. We served as a community supporter for the recent screening of the film Design Disruptors, exploring design and its importance in our lives and will be hosting an on-campus screening this academic year. Through the Collaboratory, students worked with the Boys and Girls Club to develop the interior design concept for the new Tom and Debbie Shapiro Career Resource Center, and now they are working with Hoyt Architects to build the contemporary space slated to open this fall. Furthermore, our ART Network students won their fifth and sixth Telly awards for video production projects done with community partners.

Although our various organizations have different missions, expectations and ambitions, we understand that we are greater together. As we roll into the fall, we look forward to partnering in new and exciting ways that mutually benefit our students and community. AtLarge, Inc. will be bringing the international PINC conference back to the area for the third time, and we are proud to call ourselves partnering sponsors of this phenomenal event. Our students are working with the Bradenton Area CVB to create a mural along Tamiami Trail, leading into Bradenton. Collaborations like these are what make our area so special—and what will ultimately strengthen and carry our region onto the global stage.

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

[From Charles Allen]  Continue Success On School Board
Charles Allen

For 20 years, I have had the pleasure of teaching music to elementary students in Sarasota County and the last six have been at Laurel Nokomis School. It is a privilege to work alongside our bright students, parents, faculty, staff and administrators whose efforts have been recognized by the state—Sarasota County has received an A rating for the last 10 years. Our teachers work as a family to make sure every child has a chance to excel and find his/her passion in and out of the classroom.

We could not deliver high quality arts programming to our students without the extra funding district schools receive from the passage of the $1-million school referendum. Nationally, Florida ranks at the bottom in per-pupil funding, so every dollar makes a big difference in the classroom. Caroline Zucker has worked tirelessly to ensure this referendum passes every four years. Her opponent, to the dismay of many of my colleagues, did not vote in or actively campaign for the passage of the most recent referendum in March of 2014. Mrs. Zucker understands the importance of the referendum. On Tuesday, August 30, I will cast my vote for Caroline Zucker.

Charles Allen, Sarasota 



[SCOOP]  The Real HousePets of Sarasota County

The Humane Society of Sarasota County (HSSC) presents its Fifth Annual The Real HousePets of Sarasota County calendar and pet photo contest. Showcase your favorite four-legged friend doing its best human impression while raising much-needed funds for the shelter pets in HSSC’s care. The winner will be featured on the cover of HSSC’s 2017 calendar, and the top 12 finalists will star as a pet of the month. Once entered, invite your friends and family to make a $1 donation in order to vote for your pet. The pet photo contest runs from September 1–30.  

Humane Society of Sarasota County

[KUDOS ]  Kirby Named President of CWC-FPRA

The Central West Coast Chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association welcomed its 2016–2017 board of directors during its August awards and board induction ceremony at The Francis. The event, which brought back the honored tradition of the passing of the gavel by former presidents of CWC-FPRA, was a celebration of the past year’s successes and opportunities for the upcoming year. Mischa Kirby, director of marketing and communications at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, was named the chapter's new president.  

Florida Public Relations Association

[KUDOS ]  Livengood Recieves Golden Image Award

Kim Livengood of Eclipse Agency was recently honored with the Golden Image Award for her work with Boardwalk Food Company during the 2016 state conference for Florida Public Relations professionals. Winners of this prestigious awards competition demonstrate the very best examples of innovation, planning and design. 

The Eclipse Agency

[KUDOS ]  RCAD Named in Top 25 Film Schools

The Ringling College of Art and Design has been honored in the Hollywood Reporter’s rankings of the top 25 film schools, moving up to 16th position this year from 17th in 2015. As the youngest film school on this list, the 48-acre campus which launched its film program in 2007 will open a 30,000-square-foot soundstage and postproduction complex this December. This will be the Gulf Coast's first such professional film facility.  

Ringling College of Art and Design

[SCOOP ]  Young Guns of Country

For the second year, Goodwill Manasota is partnering with 92.1 CTQ for Young Guns of Country, a free concert featuring some of country music’s hottest young acts, on September 7 at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. Jerrod Niemann, Runaway June Jordan Rager William Michael Morgan and Chris Lane are scheduled to take the stage at this highly anticipated event. Doors open at 6pm with food from Nancy’s BBQ and drinks available for purchase. Show begins at 7pm. 

Goodwill Manasota

[KUDOS ]  Children First Receives Tuition Grant

Children First recently received a $10,000 grant from the Sarasota County Foundation to provide tuition assistance for preschool children from low–income families for the 2016–2017 school year. The grant will allow Children First to extend services to more local families living in poverty, so they can benefit from the organization’s infant and toddler care, early childhood education nutrition and healthcare support. Children First currently serves over 600 children ages five and under and their families each year, of which more than 90 percent live at or below the federal poverty level of $20,160 for a family of three.  

Children First

[KUDOS ]  Publix Supports Mote's STEM Program

Publix Super Markets Charities recently awarded Mote Marine Laboratory $13,500 to help underserved children in the Sarasota and Manatee areas participate in informal, creative and fun marine science education programs. Grant funds will be used to support STEM (science, technology engineering and math) educational opportunities that aim to increase ocean literacy, interest in science and environmental appreciation.  

Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium

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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