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SRQ DAILY Oct 21, 2017

Saturday Perspectives Edition

Saturday Perspectives Edition

"We, as Americans, can put the principles of civility first to solve problems. We've been doing it for hundreds of years."

- Mark Pritchett, Gulf Coast Community Foundation
 

[The Detail]  The Greenwashing of Predatory Lending
Cathy Antunes, cathycantunes@gmail.com

Sarasota property owners may soon find themselves approached by a cadre of eager sales people, touting the benefits of “green” home improvements. PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) lending will soon be at your doorstep. Financing solar panels, energy efficient windows and appliances, new roofs and more may become as easy as signing on a sales rep’s iPad, while a well spoken PACE financing representative explains how you will conveniently repay your loan through your property tax bill. By a narrow 3-2 vote, the County Commission passed the PACE ordinance, which makes Sarasota County government the debt collector for private PACE lenders, securing their loans via property assessments through Sarasota’s Property Appraiser and Tax Collectors offices. 

This unprecedented debt collections arrangement via local government permits Wall Street to secure returns for PACE bond investors. But the locked-in return for Wall Street comes at a huge increased risk for homeowners. If a yearly PACE assessment is not paid, a homeowner can lose their house. When this increased risk of foreclosure was brought up at the County’s Oct. 11 public hearing on the PACE ordinance, PACE lenders and officials were agitated and defensive, repeatedly saying: “We don’t foreclose! We don’t foreclose!” Technically, they’re right. 

It’s the County that “forecloses,” not the PACE lender. The County staff memo regarding PACE loans explains “the (PACE) assessment to be levied on the Property constitutes a lien of equal dignity to County taxes and assessments from the date of recordation.” In other words, this home improvement loan is given the same priority and standing as your property tax bill. Fail to pay and the County can seize your property and sell it via a tax deed sale. 

In a tax deed sale, “the property is usually sold for the back tax amount plus any fees, interest charges, and court costs. Because property taxes are a small percentage of market value, investors purchasing a tax deed can acquire full property rights at a fraction of the market price” (source: forclosure.com). Normally defaulting on a small  home improvement loan ($20,000-$50,000) won’t mean you’ll lose your house. But that’s what can happen with a PACE loan.

It’s likely that those who become PACE borrowers are the ones who are least able to take on this huge additional risk. Well-qualified borrowers have many less expensive and risky financing options for clean energy home improvements. The financially literate and credit worthy are far less likely to be tempted by the “convenience” of PACE financing. Those with less financial savvy, little home equity or lower credit scores are the ones likely to be seduced by the friendly, reassuring enthusiasm of PACE contractors and sales reps.

But energy savings will make a PACE loan worth it, right? Not necessarily. PACE lenders don’t want to be required to document energy savings. The PACE lenders who negotiated with Sarasota County were successful in getting the County to back off of a requirement to provide an estimate of energy savings. The County’s staff memo reveals that PACE lenders claimed such a requirement goes “beyond their standard practices and may subject them to liability.” 

Looks like liability and risk is only meant for the little people of Sarasota, not Wall Street.

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

[Argus]  Elected Officials should trust, make sure they verify
Christine Robinson, Christine@argusfoundation.org

“We need to trust our professional staff.”  It is a phrase you hear from a lot of elected officials who put a blind trust into government staff.  It is a tough phrase to hear as it is a signal that a policy decision is being deferred to staff and the taxpayer has lost their voice in what is happening in government.   

Frequently that phrase comes without adequate questioning of a staff recommendation or a real justification for voting. When it is a reason cited by an elected official for voting a certain way, you can be sure that the elected official failed to adequately spend the time on the vote and did not read, understand, analyze and question to make sure that money is being spent wisely. They just don’t have a good reason or background for their vote other than blind faith.

It is very true that there are a lot of government staff who are very knowledgeable and very professional. Government staff are frequently subject matter experts and have deep understandings of their area of expertise. I worked with many in government who are extremely smart and could school anyone in their respective fields.

Many times, however, there has been no experience outside of government for staff to draw upon. They are very much into growing their influence and abilities to accomplish professional goals in their subject matter. They can always use more resources, more money, more time and expand on more projects. It is human nature.

In the private sector, limited resources are the check upon a business’s employees who seek to accomplish professional goals. Unless a request is a vital part of a business plan, with an adequate return on investment, and can survive an owner or shareholder scrutiny, it will not be allocated resources and for sure it won’t be allocated resources that do not exist.

But government operates on the ability to grab unlimited amounts of money by raising taxes. 

It is up to the elected official to guard taxpayer money from a system that is built to grow unless restrained. It is up to the elected official to make sure that government resources are not being exploited and are used efficiently.  Most importantly, it is up to the elected official to make sure that he or she trusts, but most importantly verifies, recommendations from government staff as a representative of the taxpayer. 

It is so easy to just say “yes” to everything anybody asks for of government. But frankly, it is the lazy way to govern. It is so much harder and labor intensive to understand, question and do your own background research and it is very hard to say no. 

Elected officials should create an environment where government staff understands that they will defend their use of taxpayer money. They should create an atmosphere of understanding that they do not have unlimited resources and will not be rewarded for the inefficient use of taxpayer dollars. Finally, elected officials should make sure that government resources are prioritized.

Verification is the key to a good government and representative democracy, not blind faith.

Christine Robinson is executive director of The Argus Foundation. 

[Gulf Coast]  Advancing Civility - Because It Matters
Mark Pritchett, mpritchett@gulfcoastcf.org

What do 10 Florida Republicans, 10 Democrats and one Independent dissecting the voting process after a bitterly contested presidential election have in common? In my experience, more than you might think.

In 2001, I served as executive director of a select task force appointed by then-Gov. Jeb Bush to review Florida’s election process following the 2000 presidential election. Remember, this was the election of hand recounts and hanging chads, when 537 out of nearly 6 million votes cast in our state ultimately decided the presidency.

With the eyes of the world and the international media trained on us, the panel members were tasked with recommending reforms to Florida’s election procedures, standards and technology in six short weeks. The task force made 35 recommendations—approved unanimously by that group of Democrats, Republicans and an independent—to modernize Florida’s election system, including decertifying the infamous punch-card machines that produced those hanging chads.

But it almost didn’t happen. On the eve of our work, two state legislators threatened to publicly challenge the legitimacy of the panel. In response, I personally called each one on behalf of the task force and assured them of several things: The task force would listen to every member’s input. It would respect the opinion of each participant as well as the process agreed to by all participants. All members would be thanked for their service, and their collective work would make a difference for our state and beyond.

The skeptical legislators accepted my word and trusted the task force to perform its duty. Civility reigned. The task force worked together, and within a few months Florida’s legislature passed a voting reform package based on the panel’s recommendations that, The New York Times editorial board said, “promises to vault Florida… into a leadership role in the effort to modernize voting throughout the country.” 

The point of that story isn’t about elections or politics. It is that we, as Americans, can put the principles of civility first to solve problems. We’ve been doing it for hundreds of years.

Today as much as ever, we must renew the spirit of civil discourse and invigorate the practice of civic engagement. Embracing civility is an antidote to the hyper-partisanship and coarsening communication that our society bemoans on a daily basis. We must advance civility if we want to advance our communities.

For our part here in our region, Gulf Coast Community Foundation this month launched a civility initiative, Because It Matters. We are working with our community to introduce ten keys to civility like “listen,” “respect others,” “say thank you” and “make a difference” into our schools and workplaces. Civility is the foundation of community. If we can’t find common ground, how can we build for the common good?

To those who might say this is a soft issue, I say it’s time to push back against trending extremism and advance civility together. I invite you to learn about this movement and ways you can join us, including grant opportunities, workplace training and more by going online to GulfCoastCF.org.

And thank you. Because it matters.

Dr. Mark S. Pritchett is president/CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation. His favorite of the 10 Keys to Civility is “keep your cool.” 

[Education]  Planning for SCF's Future
Carol Probstfeld, presidentsoffice@scf.edu

Earlier this fall, we celebrated the 60th anniversary of this region’s oldest and largest higher education institution, the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota. While we honor the past of our college, it is exciting and important to look to its future.

Just before that anniversary date in September, we completed the purchase of a 74-acre parcel of land in Parrish as a future site for a college campus in east Manatee County. This parcel of land is directly across Erie Road from the site for the next Manatee County high school, North River High School.

The opening of the Fort Hamer Bridge this month will greatly increase access to this rapidly developing area for our east Manatee County residents. Our data demonstrates that we are drawing students from this area and that there is a significant youth population developing in Parrish and Ellenton.

A Parrish-area campus would be the third expansion in the college’s history. As in previous forays into South Sarasota County and Lakewood Ranch, this new acquisition is created by a combination of philanthropy and state funding. At every step, SCF’s growth has reflected the generosity and commitment of our community to providing higher education wherever our students live and work.

This acquisition is a major step toward achieving Strategic Priority No. 1 in the college’s 2015-2020 Boldly Engaging Strategic Plan to “ensure that SCF programs are available to students in all geographic locations of our service area,” and more specifically, to “increase SCF’s physical presence in the rapid growth area east of I-75 and north of the Manatee River.”

In writing this column, I reflected back to my 2013 inaugural address as the President of this college:

“You might wonder about forecasting 20 years in the future when we have pressing immediate deadlines and priorities. Consider this: The sole reason we are able to be here today (on the Bradenton campus) is because in 1957, people were passionate about bringing college education to this community.                 

We were able to invite Gov. Bob Graham to the grand opening of our Venice campus in 1985 because 15 years before that, people in south Sarasota County saw a need and worked diligently to meet that need. We could celebrate our first building in Lakewood Ranch in 2003 because years earlier, leaders saw the growth out east and stepped up to fulfill our mission and provide college education for the young people and adults in that area.

For tomorrow’s promise to be met, it is incumbent on us to create the vision and plan today. Looking back at our great heritage is an exercise in nostalgia unless we honor the work of our founders by paying it forward, just as they did for us. Education is about the future. We often don’t get to see the fulfillment of our labors. But that doesn’t relieve us of the responsibility. The time to plan for the College of 2033 is today.”

We won’t break ground tomorrow on a new Parrish campus, but we have set the conditions for the future. If we do not take these steps today when the conditions are right, we limit the SCF of tomorrow from being able to grow and adapt with our community.

Carol Probstfeld is president of State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota. 



[Best Of SRQ Local]  Cast Your Vote For Best Local Restaurant Kids Menu!

The best kind of restaurant is one with a menu that accommodates the whole family.  Tell us where to find the Best Local Restaurant Kids Menu for the little ones in your family. After all, when the kids are happy, everyone is happy. 

Vote Here!

[SCOOP]  Sarasota County Students "Hack Education"

The Education Foundation of Sarasota County’s second annual student hackathon was held October 13-15, 2017, at Ringling College of Art + Design. The intense, three-day immersive experience paired nearly 100 students age 13-18 years old with over 40 mentors, forming 10 teams that worked to “hack their education” by creating technological applications designed to advance student learning. “Watching the student presentations and interaction with community mentors is nothing short of inspiring,” noted Jennifer Vigne, President of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County. Team Carma took the grand prize, pitching an application they described as the “uber for students.” Utilizing properly screened adult volunteers, Carma would allow students to have safe transportation to and from school and school-related activities while notifying parents of their whereabouts throughout the ride. Members of the winning team each received an Apple iPad Pro. An added surprise was an invitation by SRQMedia CEO Lisl Liang to have Team Carma attend the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce Symposia on Transportation as her guest. 

Education Foundation of Sarasota County

[KUODS ]  Three Sarasota YMCA Sharks Chosen for 2017 USA Swimming National Select Camp

Sarasota Sharks, Arik Katz, Isabel Traba and Emma Weyant have been chosen as one of 48 girls and boys from across the country to participate in the USA Swimming’s National Select Camp on October 19-22 at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. During the three-day camp, Katz, Traba and Weyant will experience the day-to-day routine of a National Team athlete and utilize the state of the art training facilities. The campers will learn from top professionals on topics such as post-race recovery, psychological training skills, nutrition and race strategy. Swimmers are selected from the SWIMS database of top times during the 2017 qualifying period.“We’re thrilled to have three of our Sharks athletes take part of such an amazing experience,” said Brent Arckey, Sarasota YMCA Sharks Head Coach. “This camp could be the inspiration they need to catapult their swimming career and take them to the next level that they’ve all worked so hard for.”  

Sarasota YMCA Sharks

[SCOOP ]  Meals on Wheels of Sarasota's Community Gift Drive

The holiday season is one of the most special times of the year where family and friends unite for dinner, fun and festivities. However, for hundreds of seniors in Sarasota, often alone with no nearby family, it can be just the opposite. For them, there’s Meal on Wheels of Sarasota’s annual community gift drive. From now through Saturday December 9, Meals on Wheels of Sarasota is accepting unwrapped items to distribute to more than 600 homebound seniors, veterans and the handicapped. The desired gifts, ranging from blankets to scarves to writing pads have been selected by their customers during surveys circulated in September and October. Unwrapped items may be dropped off weekdays (9am to 4pm) or Saturday mornings until noon at the charity’s office at 421 Lime Avenue, Sarasota. Only new items are being accepted for the children and adults who receive nourishing meals through Meals on Wheels’ daily meal delivery program. Gifts will be delivered December 20 and 21.  

Meals on Wheels Sarasota

[KUDOS ]  Women's Council of Realtors Sarasota Donate to Mothers Helping Mothers

The Women’s Council of Realtors (WCR) Sarasota Chapter President, Maryellen Paterson, presented a check in the amount of $2,396.52 to Mothers Helping Mothers, the designated the beneficiary to a portion of the proceeds from Women’s Council of Realtors annual Fashion Show held on September 6at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota with almost 500 registered guests. Both WCR President Maryellen and committee Chair Tina Darling have been single mothers in this community and appreciate all the support Mothers Helping Mothers has provided.  Since 1990, the organization has been an all-volunteer not-for-profit organization, providing basic necessities free of charge to families in need.  All items are donated or purchased through grant funding or private contributions and the organization also offers emotional support and referrals to other agencies in the surrounding area. 

Women's Council of Realtors Sarasota

[SCOOP ]  Neuro Challenge Launches Manatee Distinguished Speakers

Neuro Challenge Foundation for Parkinson’s (NCF) invites the Parkinson’s community and public to attend the first presentation of the Manatee County Distinguished Speaker series on Saturday, November 4, at State College of Florida featuring Dr. Jeffrey Cameron, a physiatrist at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital with a specialization in Parkinson’s. Dr. Cameron is board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and as a physiatrist, treats a wide variety of medical conditions affecting the brain, spinal cord, nerves, bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons. Dr. Cameron will be speaking on the role of diet in preserving brain function and slowing the progression of Parkinson’s Disease. Also speaking will be Manatee County Chief of Paramedicine Jimmy Crutchfield on understanding how to respond to emergency situations in Your Home.  “Our Distinguished Speaker Series is an opportunity for people in the Parkinson’s community to learn more about living well with Parkinson’s,” said Robyn Faucy, executive director of Neuro Challenge. “Area professionals speak to topics of high-interest for people living with Parkinson’s; all of our programs and services are offered at no charge thanks to our donors.” Registration will begin at 9:30 and the program runs from 10:00 am to 12:15 pm.  

Neuro Challenge Foundation for Parkinson's

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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