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SRQ Daily Apr 8, 2017

Saturday Perspectives Edition

Saturday Perspectives Edition

"In the face of challenges such as climate change and diseases like cancer, it is imperative that our country increase the number of scientists we produce. New College is more than doing its part."

- Donal O'Shea, New College of Florida
 

[Under The Hood]  Keep the Long View on Sunshine
Jacob Ogles, jacob.ogles@srqme.com

The Sunshine Law case against Sarasota City Commissioner Susan Chapman this week may finally have come to a close, with an appeals court affirming a court decision from last year determing the commissioner didn’t violate the law when she attended a 2013 private meeting at Tsunami where another commissioner was present. While Chapman expresses a level of vindication, the news comes a little late to provide any political bounce, weeks after Chapman’s re-election bid ended in defeat.

What I’m most hopeful for now is an end to years of hyperbole on all sides about ramifications of this case. Too many community leaders have argued Sunshine in recent years based less on the intent of law and more on whether they admire or dislike the pol at the center of any particular scandal. What’s this mean and for the future regarding how public officials can and should behave? Nothing. The same rules apply as always did, and elected officials should always adhere to those rules and avoid any appearance of impropriety, if only to avoid the embarrassment of defending their actions in court.

Certainly, Chapman’s success should be not be seen by any public official as a chance to play recklessly with the law. This case centered around whether “deliberation” occurred between Chapman and fellow Commissioner Suzanne Atwell when both were there; the courts determined it did not.

But, without getting lost in the particulars of this case, it’s notable Judge Brian Iten also concluded the commissioner’s attendance at a gathering where a colleague would be was unwise. “This Court’s ruling in this case should not be deemed an endorsement,” he wrote.

Many have asserted that a different ruling would make it impossible for two commissioners to meet at a Tiger Bay meeting or a gathering of the Coalition of City Neighborhood Associations. That’s simply not true. Two commissioners could always attend, and could listen to citizen positions on city business. What they could not do—and still cannot do—is participate and share their thoughts on to handle the issue with another voting member of their board sitting right there. The larger the meeting, the more foolish it would be to blatantly violate the law in front of so many witnesses. The more private a meeting, the worse it would appear to the broader public when facts came to light.

I’m Sunshine Law cases in Florida that resulted in officials getting admonished for minor infractions and other instances where officials got away with brazen action with no consequence. In the mid-200s, I recall a state attorney’s office threatening action on a Cape Coral councilman, who eventually had to attend remedial training on the law, after he was caught on camera discussing an issue with a colleague at the dais during a five-minute break at a meeting. Meanwhile, a few years earlier, three Lake County commissioners suffered no consequence after taking a four-hours-both-ways trip to Tallahassee in the same van and coincidentally days later called to fire the county administrator in a 3-2 vote; you see the law allowed the officials to drive to the capital together so long as they don’t discuss county business, and they swore they did not.

So yeah, this law’s funny sometimes. And both sides get pretty self-righteous about it. But it remains a safeguard on government transparency— something Floridians take for granted. Elected officials should always be able to hear from constituents about important civic matters, but the decision-making process on determining solutions should be something we all can see. Let’s hope high emotion over certain isolated events never leads lawmakers to compromise that ideal.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor to SRQ Media Group. 

[GCBX]  Bright Opportunities in Workforce
Mary Dougherty-Slapp

It’s that time of year when many local high school students (and their parents) are starting to prepare for graduation. While some teens may already have their next steps firmly locked in place, others might be unsure about what happens after high school or feel pressured to head down a path that’s just not right for them.

Those students might find that a career in the construction industry could be an ideal fit. Students who are tactile learners and enjoy working with their hands often blossom in this field, finding well-paying, steady work and even going on to establish their own businesses one day.

Based on what I hear from the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange members, we need our local kids to get interested in our industry. Cultivating and retaining a workforce is the biggest issue we face in the construction industry today. Builders are busy again and in need of qualified employees and subcontractors to do everything from drywall to ductwork, as well as manage and supervise projects.

The problem is a lot of these workers left during the recession, and it doesn’t look like they’re coming back. And with many of the folks involved in our industry in their 40s and 50s, there’s an impeding tsunami of retirements coming down the road. 

A lack of labor increases production times and drives up costs for both builders and their customers. That’s why it’s so vital that we as an industry work to educate students about careers in construction and the trades—and see if pursuing a career in this field is a good fit for them. There’s been a big push to drive all students toward four-year college degrees, but that’s just not the right path for every student out there.

Students can find lots of good-paying jobs in construction with plenty of room for climbing the career ladder. According to 2015 figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for Florida, the annual mean wage for all occupations in the state is $42,860.

Many occupations in the construction field boast annual mean wages that come close to or beat that, including pile-driver operators ($49,610), electricians ($42,600), plumbers and pipe fitters ($39,170) and construction and building inspectors ($56,980). And a 2016 labor market analysis put out by CareerEdge showed that the average annual pay for the construction field in Sarasota County grew between 10 percent and 15 percent between 2012 and 2015. 

To tell local students about these kinds of opportunities, the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange will be hosting a Construction Rodeo on May 11 at Manatee Technical College from 10am to 12:30pm. Interested students from Sarasota and Manatee Counties will be bussed to the event, where speakers and hands-on activities will help open their eyes to the different career paths that are out there.

We hope to make this an annual event that leads to internships and paid apprenticeships for students that eventually turn into careers. Many students reach their junior and senior years of high school and still haven’t figured out what they want to do with their lives. We hope to catch some of those kids and show them all that they can do in construction and the trades.

Mary Dougherty-Slapp is executive director of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange.  

[Higher Education]  April, Spring and Fellowships
Donal O'Shea, doshea@ncf.edu

April is the cruelest month. In the northern states, it signals a spring that somehow never seems to arrive. At New College, it signals the announcement of winners of national fellowships and scholarships—Fulbright, Frost, Gilman, Hollings and Truman. Over the years, so many have gone to New College students that it obscures the low odds of obtaining one. It makes them seem easy to obtain, and it hides the silent anguish of those who applied and did not succeed. Let me assure you that there is nothing easy about obtaining such awards. 

The Goldwater Scholarships are a case in point. This week, we announced two of our third-year students, Caitlyn Ralph and Constance Sartor, received a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship—the most prestigious undergraduate scholarship in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering in America.  A third, Lukas Heath, received an honorable mention. The scholarship recognizes students showing potential to make significant contributions to mathematics, science, and engineering.

If winning a national fellowship is improbable, earning a Goldwater is nearly impossible. To be eligible, a student must be a full-time sophomore at a community college or a sophomore or junior at a four-year college and university. There are approximately 12.2 million full-time, undergraduate students in U.S. colleges and universities, about a quarter of whom are sophomores or juniors. So, about 3 million students are eligible. 

Only 240 Goldwaters are awarded annually, with other 300 or so honorable mentions.  As befits the relatively small number of awards, the selection process is rigorous and demanding. Each institution can only nominate up to four students and each nomination must demonstrate a commitment to STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math] above and beyond curricular study, including research projects, paid internships, conference presentations and published journal articles—as an undergraduate.  Out of the 3 million or so eligible students in the United States, only a tiny fraction is even nominated.

The application itself requires a research essay citing the student’s current and future contributions to their field, short answer questions and three letters of recommendations from faculty members. The total process takes about three months to complete and is judged by top PhDs in the STEM fields around the country.

This year, there were only four Goldwater scholarships awarded to students attending public colleges in Florida: two to New College students, one to student at the University of Central Florida and another to a student at the University of Florida. Two others were awarded to students attending private institutions, Florida Southern College and the University of Miami. The odds of two students winning this fellowship at random at a tiny institution such as New College are very low. Of course, there is nothing random about this sort of success. (For those who enjoy computing odds, New College has 860 students, a small fraction of over one million undergraduates in the State University System and the Florida College System combined.)

Scholarships have a powerful effect on a student’s future. About 92 percent of Goldwater scholars go on to earn PhDs in mathematics, science and engineering. In fact, New College ranks third in the nation in the proportion of graduates who subsequently earn STEM PhDs. In the face of challenges such as climate change and diseases like cancer, it is imperative that our country increase the number of scientists we produce. New College is more than doing its part. 

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

[Letter from Pat Neal]  Business Rent Tax Stifles Florida's Economic Future
Pat Neal

The business rent tax is the only state-sanctioned sales tax on commercial leases in the entire country and Florida is the not-so-proud holder of that title. Not even tax-happy havens like California and New York impose this state tax on its businesses. Due to this burdensome tax, Florida businesses shell out more than $1.7 billion dollars every year to the state. As a result, our state economy dramatically suffers in the form of suppressed job growth and economic activity.

Luckily, Gov. Rick Scott is committed to cutting this tax on hardworking small business owners and budding entrepreneurs. The governor has repeatedly made cutting or abolishing this tax one of his top priorities for numerous years as part of his commitment to creating jobs for Florida families. Recently, he has hit the road advocating for a 25 percent cut in the tax—a move that could save Florida businesses more than $400 million per year and reduce prices for Florida consumers.

The business rent tax places a disproportionate burden on small businesses and startups that do not have the capital to purchase bigger office space, hire new employees or expand to other locations. All of this creates a chilling effect on many of Florida’s more than two million small businesses.

Florida TaxWatch’s research has shown that this rent tax presents an impediment to the success of the state’s businesses, and TaxWatch’s long-standing recommendation has been that Florida’s policymakers should take efforts towards reducing or eliminating this tax.

The fairness and competitiveness of our tax structure is paramount to Florida’s continued success. If we want to continue to be recognized as the top place in the country for business, we must promote incentive programs like Enterprise Florida and commit to reduce or eliminate the business rent tax. This is the one area where Florida cannot afford to be unique.

Pat Neal is a former state senator and president of Neal Communities. 

[Letter from Dave Morgan]  Put a Stop to STOP
Dave Morgan

 “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight and no vision.”―Helen Keller

After reading the SRQ Daily last weekend where a letter writer shed light on the failed Starbucks project, which was STOP!’d, I was reminded of one of the last remaining planning puzzle pieces along the South Trail: the Cabana Inn. 

The Cabana Inn, a once highly-polished example of ‘60s Mid Modern sits on the South Trail caddy-cornered to Sarasota Memorial Hospital. Although partially demolished, what little does remain of the Cabana has, via the kindness of its owner, lately become an affordable shelter option for some who would be otherwise homeless. It is after all an active motel, but for the good of our city and my adjacent neighborhood, it is in desperate need of a serious re-imagining.

And it’s not as if they and we have not tried. But each time, through multiple proposals and decades—long attempts at redeveloping the Cabana Inn, every effort has been put to a STOP! Despite collaborative outreach, engaging and gathering input from our neighborhood to create a shared vision for a successful redevelopment of the area, we always find someone saying STOP! The group says it wants more public input? We are the public, and we’ve been there. We’ve asked and argued, begged for help but once STOP steps up to the mic, all bets are off.

Contributing to the organized effort to derail these projects include previous votes by the leadership of STOP! And now another of their own, Jen Ahearn-Koch, running for the Commission seat of their co-founder Susan Chapman will, if elected, likely continue as she did with that North Trail Starbucks—to prefer the disappointing realities of the Cabana Inn as it is, rather than vision with us what could be.

Anyone who reads SRQ Daily should have a pretty fair grasp of the issues facing Sarasota; homelessness, budget shortfalls, land use and urban design, creating jobs, traffic management, and the lack of affordable housing for our City's workforce and aging population. These issues are not unique to our community. But, what is unique to each city across our country is the shared vision they create and implement to solve these challenges. What I can share with you after 15 years of experience as an affordable housing consultant is that the formulation of these shared visions of success do not begin with telling everyone to STOP!

There are three names on the May 9th ballot for City Commissioner. Two, Hagen Brody and Martin Hyde, have made it clear they are no fans of STOP. Vote by Mail ballots are on their way, early voting begins in a couple of weeks, and the election is May 9. For the love of our city, only you can put a STOP to STOP!

Dave Morgan, Sarasota. 



[KUDOS]  Gulf Coast Named One Of Best Nonprofits To Work For

Gulf Coast Community Foundation was named 26th among 50 organizations and placed 8th among small non-profits in the Non-Profit Times list of 2017 Best Nonprofits to Work For. The NonProfit Times is a leading national business publication for nonprofit management. The survey and awards program is designed to identify and honor exemplary employers in the nonprofit sector that have excelled in creating quality workplaces for their employees. In turn, these employers benefit the sector’s economy, workforce and businesses. Gulf Coast was the only community foundation named to this year’s top 50 list, and one of three organizations from Florida to be recognized.  

Gulf Coast Community Foundation

[KUDOS ]  Rotary Club Helps Enhance Children First Playground

The Rotary Club of Sarasota granted $8,000 to Children First for improvements to their playground by installing a Merry-Go-Cycle, magnet wall and large timber stackers. The new equipment, which will be used by children ages 3-5 years old, is developmentally appropriate and encourages children to learn through play as well as develop fine and gross motor skills. After the items were installed, Children First used the opportunity not only to thank the Rotary Club but also to honor longtime supporter, Jo Rutstein who served on the Children First board of directors from 2009-2014, and was board chair in 2012. To honor Jo's contributions, Children First installed a sign near the new playground equipment, naming the area Jo's Place. 

Children First

[KUDOS]  Together Manatee Awards $25,000 To Manatee Community Foundation

Together Manatee, a group of concerned and caring organizations that work together to bring positive and lasting change to Manatee County, awarded a $25,000 grant to Manatee Community Foundation to support its community space available to local nonprofit organizations. The gift establishes Together Manatee as a Pillar of the Community, an investment that will make it possible for important conversations shaping dialogue about health, human services, animal welfare, environmental preservation and arts and culture to take place in Manatee Community Foundation’s professional event space on Manatee Avenue West. 

Together Manatee

[SCOOP]  $200,000 Raised For Lori White Endowment Fund

The Education Foundation of Sarasota County has received over 140 donations to meet its $150,000 fundraising goal to establish The Lori White Endowment Fund.  The accomplishment triggered a $50,000 capping grant from the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation for the fund that will provide unique professional development opportunities for teachers. The goal was met thanks to charitable donors including members of the Education Foundation Board of Directors, long-term supporters, area community foundations and numerous individuals whose gifts expressed deep gratitude for Lori White’s dedication to education in Sarasota County. 

Education Foundation of Sarasota County

[SCOOP ]  Wells Fargo Foundation Grants $10,000 to CPC

Child Protection Center received a $10,000 grant courtesy of the Wells Fargo Foundation to provide funding for the Personal Safety Community Awareness (PSCA) program. In a comprehensive approach to child abuse prevention, PSCA educates and empowers children and adults in an effort to eliminate child abuse. PSCA staff leads developmentally appropriate personal safety workshops for children that cover topics including: sexual abuse prevention, anti-bullying, internet safety, abduction prevention, self-esteem and empathy training. PSCA offers trainings for both parents and professionals on positive parenting techniques, identification and reporting of child abuse, indicators and impacts of sexual abuse and internet safety. This audience allows every sector of the community to be educated in their role and responsibilities in the creation of a community in which all children are safe from abuse through proactive education. 

Child Protection Center

[SCOOP ]  Goodwill And Girl Scouts Partner To Honor Veterans

Goodwill Manasota and Girls Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida are teaming up for the Girl Scout Leadership Experience, a community project with the goal of honoring veterans, inspiring patriotism and embracing freedom. Girl Scout Cadettes, grades 6-8 will participate in a variety of activities to earn leadership badges and a Legacy of Valor patch. Participating Girl Scouts will be linked to a woman veteran through the Goodwill Manasota Veterans Task Force to learn first-hand the sacrifices that the veterans have made and how they have become leaders in the community. In addition, thanks to the Military Officers Association of Sarasota (MOAS), each Girl Scout will receive a booklet called Old Glory: A Guide to Displaying and Honoring Our Nation’s Flag to teach them follow the flag code and how to perform a flag retirement ceremony once it has become too worn or damaged to display.  

Goodwill Manasota

[KUDOS]  Becker Lists SMH Among America's 100 Best Hospitals

Sarasota Memorial Hospital has been listed among America’s 100 top hospitals in 2017 by Becker’s Hospital Review awarded to hospitals and health systems that earn multiple rankings and awards from reputable sources, including the federal government’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Truven Health Analytics, Magnet accreditation, Healthgrades, The Leapfrog Group and U.S. News & World Report. Sarasota Memorial earned high marks from all of them in 2016 and 2017. Last month, SMH also made Becker’s “150 Great Places to Work in Healthcare in 2017” list, a tribute to health systems and healthcare companies that demonstrate the greatest commitment to fulfilling missions, creating outstanding cultures and offering competitive benefits to their employees.   

Sarasota Memorial Healthcare

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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