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SRQ DAILY Jan 20, 2018

"We must take a deep look at ourselves and decide that second best in the state is not enough. We want to be the best in the country."

- Christine Robinson, The Argus Foundation

[The Detail]  Apathy Is Not Voter Suppression
Cathy Antunes, cathycantunes@gmail.com

A few years ago, I made my morning Starbucks run after I had cast my ballot in a City election. I asked the young barista I had become friendly with if she lived in the City, and if she was going to vote that day. She told me she did live in the City, and no, she wasn’t going to vote that day. “I only vote in presidential elections,” she shared. Lack of interest in local elections is disappointing to me. I started to encourage her to go vote, but her decision not to participate was clearly linked to having no interest in local issues. If she went to vote, she wouldn’t know any of the people on the ballot. She stays home because she wasn’t engaged at the local level. That’s not voter suppression, that’s voter apathy.

Once again there is a new group advocating for moving Sarasota City elections to November. They cite Improving low voter turnout in City elections as a primary reason for their effort, and call the low turnout in March City elections “defacto voter suppression.” This corruption of the term “voter suppression” is unfortunate.

Voter suppression occurs when barriers are erected that suppress voter turnout. Historically, such barriers include poll taxes, literacy tests and restricting polling places or polling hours. City elections held in the Spring, complete with mail-in/absentee voting, generous early voting hours and individual precinct Election Day polling places cannot reasonably be classified as “voter suppression.”

March elections that showcase local elections provide the opportunity for timely run-off elections, which are common in the City. If elections are moved to November, campaigning and voting for City run-off races will occur during the holiday season. Is that what we want?

Currently, dark money is a weak factor in City elections. Having a big war chest and PAC support doesn’t guarantee success. The “little guy” can run and win. If races are moved to November, City races will compete with state and national races for voter attention, volunteers and campaign donations. The impact of dark money will become more potent. Do we really want to set the stage for developer dark money having greater impact in the City?

Another reason to hold City elections in March is unique to Florida: our local voter population is at its peak in the springtime. If elections are moved to November, many of our neighbors with second homes up north will not be able to participate in local forums and candidate campaign events because they will not be here.

In this latest iteration of advocacy for moving City elections to November, it would be great if we could remove the term “voter suppression” from our discourse. Elections held in the springtime may not be of interest to some voters, but that’s apathy, not voter suppression.

Cathy Antunes is host of "The Detail" on WSRQ. 

[Argus]  Education Key to Nationwide Competitiveness
Christine Robinson, Christine@argusfoundation.org

Competition amongst counties and regions for economic development is fierce, almost as fierce as it was during the recession. Now is the time to diversify and make sure we are well-positioned for the next inevitable recession, which will hopefully come later than sooner.

Sarasota County sits as a southern outlier in a region known as the Tampa Bay Area. Recently, the Tampa Bay Partnership, in collaboration with the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay and the United Way Suncoast, released the "2018 Regional Competitiveness Report" to "examine the Tampa Bay region's relative performance across a variety of economic competitiveness and prosperity indicators."

The report compared the Tampa Bay region to 19 other "peer and aspirational markets". It looked at economic vitality, innovation, infrastructure, civic quality, talent and outcomes.
Some interesting facts came to light in the comparisons. The Tampa Bay region is near the top for job growth rate, behind Orlando, but second from bottom in average wage, beating Orlando, this time at the bottom.

In Innovation, we were average for university research and development and university technology licensing.
Infrastructure yielded the same results. For commute times, walkability and pavement condition, we were right in the middle compared with the other markets. Believe it or not, we were third best in driving time spent in congestion.

Our youth poverty rate was the fourth worst. We were in the middle of the pack for the full-time worker poverty rate. We were slightly below average for the millennial in-migration.

The talent portion was section we did the worst on. The Tampa Bay area was at the bottom for the labor force participation rate for 25- to 64-year-olds, at the bottom for attaining graduate and professional degrees, and at the bottom for attaining bachelor's degrees. We were fourth worst for graduation rates for the economically disadvantaged and third worst for high school graduation rates.

What was the takeaway from this report? The Tampa Bay area performs average to well in many areas of measurement, but there was one glaring sentence in the Executive Summary that shows what we must focus on: "If the region wants higher-wage, higher-skilled jobs, it will need a strategy to develop, retain and attract the educated workforce that these jobs demand—whether it's certificates or traditional academic credentials such as associate, bachelor and advanced degrees."

We have a responsibility to the next generation to leave them well-situated for the future. We cannot do that until we improve education and compare ourselves to the rest of the country, not just Florida. We must take a deep look at ourselves and decide that second best in the state is not enough. We want to be the best in the country.

We certainly should celebrate our education victories. But it's time for us to look past our state borders and have sincere conversations about skills gaps, the education gaps, and make sure we are measuring ourselves against, and competing with, the regions in the other 49 states. We can and must do better for our future.

Christine Robinson is executive director of The Argus Foundation. 

[Gulf Coast]  Rapid Rehousing Solution Worth the Time It Took
Mark Pritchett, mpritchett@gulfcoastcf.org

Last week’s announcement of a new rapid rehousing initiative in Sarasota County marks an important milestone in our community’s long-running effort to help chronically homeless adults.

The achievement demonstrates real partnership—among governments, among service providers. It also exemplifies the best of smart private philanthropy. Most importantly, it will provide new hope (and homes) for many of the most difficult-to-assist individuals who experience homelessness here in Sarasota.

As reported in SRQ and elsewhere, the new effort engages the Society of St. Vincent de Paul South Pinellas to bring its operational expertise to bear on a persistent need—the gap in housing and wraparound support to get chronically homeless individuals off our streets and out of emergency shelters. The Society will do everything from identifying and securing suitable housing units to managing custom menus of services so newly housed individuals can stay in their homes.

The Society’s approach to helping the homeless has been successful in other Florida communities. The organization is ready to scale and to meet our own community’s needs. This also will relieve pressure from some of our local nonprofit partners, who can fully focus on what they do best, whether that is complementary housing assistance or other critical services like substance-abuse counseling, mental-health care or job training. We are excited to welcome the Society of St. Vincent de Paul to our team.

This breakthrough is possible because of the hard-earned cooperation and collaboration of the City of Sarasota, Sarasota County Government and the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness, the regional entity that manages public funds for homeless assistance. These partners have worked tirelessly with Gulf Coast Community Foundation and others to implement a plan for effective homeless response commissioned from the Florida Housing Coalition. My colleague Jon Thaxton invited them all to the table over a year ago in the spirit of partnership and service to our community. Their willingness to stay there and forge a solution together is laudable and gratifying.

But this achievement would not have happened without the vision and will of the private philanthropists who are funding it. The $1-million, yearlong grant contract that Gulf Coast signed with Society of St. Vincent de Paul is fully funded through individual gifts of private philanthropy. These generous donors saw something wrong in our community that they wanted to right. But they also understood that just throwing door-keys at the problem wouldn’t help. They sought to invest in a solution that enabled people to move into homes and access every opportunity to remain there and thrive. That is what their philanthropy has delivered.

We are hopeful that our new safety net for the homeless will transform lives throughout our communities. And we thank all those who have made this achievement possible.

Dr. Mark S. Pritchett is president/CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation. 

[Candidate]  A New Beginning for District 72
Alison Foxall

Are the people of District 72 really represented in the Florida House of Representatives? Obviously not since Alexandra Miller resigned. But more than that is, perhaps, why she is no longer there. Florida has a long history of ensuring that all senators and representatives toe the party line. Does “toe the party line” mean the same as “listen to and represent the people of one’s district”? No, it does not. As Reason Magazine, a libertarian publication has stated: “Republicans and Democrats work hard to limit our choices when it comes to politicians. But when it comes to the stuff we buy and sell, Americans can meaningfully choose ‘none of the above.’” Translation: the private sector is responsive to consumers; politicians much less, if at all, since they are often beholden to party leaders and special interests.

Several issues require less “business-as-usual” political action, like the items below.

1.  Jobs and the economy. How to easily increase employment? First, reduce unnecessary occupational licensing. Florida has some of the most burdensome licensing requirements in the U.S. We regulate well over 300 occupations. Studies show that licensing does not offer consumer protection. Why does an interior designer need a license? It’s not required in 47 other states.

2.  Energy. Florida is the “Sunshine State.” It has ample sun for individuals to power their own homes. Why don’t more go off grid and do this? The courts have ruled that living off the grid is a violation of the International Property Maintenance code. Some courts are fining residents and jailing people who have gone off the grid. This is an injustice.

3.  State Budget. Great budgeting means trimming unnecessary, wasteful spending. Eliminate corporate and sports industry welfare. Does Florida need to have state-paid offices and advertising to let people know it is a sunny, fun place to go? It is second in US tourism despite having half the population of California, the number one state. It is not the role of government to fund various private sector industries. The proper role of government is to protect our rights.

4.  Health care. Health care is a massive industry here and important to us all. Florida, by average age, is the oldest US state. Sarasota residents are older than the Florida average, and growing older still. We need to repeal hospital “Certificate of Need” laws and end many occupational licensing requirements for medical technicians to drive down costs.

5.  Drugs. Legalize marijuana. Decriminalize other drugs. How? Look to Portugal. 17 years after decriminalization there are now 3 drug-related deaths per million citizens per year. The U.S. is closer to 200 drug-related deaths per million. In 2016, Florida had 250 deaths per million. The War on Drugs is killing us. Addiction is a health crisis. We populate, at great cost, our prisons with sick people, not criminals. The criminal justice system is a wreck. Why build more prisons for marijuana users? For the prison lobby?

6. If James Buchanan will not listen to us now, he will not meet his opponents in public venues, how can we expect him to speak for us later?

Alison Foxall isa Libertarian candidate for state representative in House District 72. The election is scheduled for Feb. 13. 

[Best Of SRQ Local]  Cast Your Vote For Best Manatee/Bradenton Elected Official!

Those in Manatee County voted Vanessa Baugh as best Manatee/Bradenton Elected Official in last year’s Best of SRQ Local Readers Competition. Mary Pat Baxter states, “I was very impressed with Vanessa each time I watched the Manatee County hearings...she asked the right questions at commission hearings and responded with great ideas.” Who do you feel has done the best job representing Manatee? We want to hear from you! Click below to share your favorite restaurants, boutiques, parties and people in SRQ Magazine's 2018 Best of SRQ Local Readers Competition.


Vote Here!

[SCOOP ]  Shivoo Havana Fashion Show

Get your SHIVOO on and come enjoy a boisterous celebration at the Shivoo Havana Fashion Show hosted by the Sarasota Garden Club at the Hyatt Regency Ballroom. This energetic occasion features a raffle silent auction, live Cuban music and a photo flower wall. The raffle prize includes a gardening tour for two in sunny Cuba. 

Sarasota Garden Club

[KUDOS ]  Children First Receives Grant From Junior League

The Junior League of Sarasota issued a grant of $4,500 to Children First, the exclusive provider of Head Start programming for Sarasota County. The funds will provide necessary support for Children First’s Career Readiness for Women class offered at no cost to low-income families through Children First’s Families First Institute. As strong supporters of this organization from the begining, the Junior League of Sarasota founded the Sarasota Day Nursery, which would eventually become Children First, Inc., in 1961. Children First is one of the nation’s top 10 Head Start Programs and the exclusive Head Start and Early Head Start provider for Sarasota County.  

Children First

[SCOOP ]  Sisterhood For Good

Established in May 2011 by founding donor and advisor Angela Massaro-Fain, Sisterhood For Good is a fun, active giving circle that unites women who share common philanthropic goals. The organization derives its strength from the integration of the energies, talents and expertise of its diverse and dynamic members. Sisterhood For Good has a goal to grow to 100 passionate members to broaden its reach and enhance its impact in the community. Since its first year, Sisterhood For Good has continued to raise funds to present local non-profit organizations in the Sarasota-Manatee area with grants that support their unique missions and goals. 

Sisterhood For Good

[SCOOP]  Selah Freedom Announces Newest Advisory Board Members

Selah freedom is proud to announce their newest advisory board members: Donna Koffman, Tammy Karp, and Mimi Carlin. These three dynamic power houses bring amazing experience, connections and vibrancy to the Selah Freedom team. Welcome ladies! 

Selah Freedom

[SCOOP ]  Smooch a Pooch

Four-legged friends make the best Valentines. Join the Humane Society of Sarasota County for a Valentine’s celebration with the 2nd Annual Smoochy Poochy Yappy Hour will take place on Thursday, February 8, from 5-7pm at Beulah Restaurant on Main Street. Admission includes three cocktails per person and heavy appetizers. A few lovely dames from Black Diamond Burlesque will add to the ambiance. HSSC will have adorable pets on site, plus more surprises. Tickets are $75 per person.  

Humane Society of Sarasota County

[SCOOP ]  Goodwill Beefs Up Veterans Program

Goodwill Manasota has made significant moves to beef up its Veterans Services Program team. The nonprofit organization has hired three new employees to staff its Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP), promoted an existing team member to a new role, and shifted a former career services staffer to assist in non-HVRP operations. Eric Davis, Bryan Jacobs and Chris Landis are serving as HVRP advisors. In this role, they help to connect at-risk veterans with necessary social services while providing comprehensive case management and vocational services that assist in lowering or removing barriers to employment. Mike Marzella, an Army veteran who has worked for Goodwill for the past year, was promoted to HVRP program manager. Janet McBride has also joined Goodwill’s Veteran Services team to help non-HVRP veterans and their families; she previously worked for Goodwill’s Job Connections program.  

Goodwill Manasota

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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