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SRQ Daily Mar 10, 2018

Saturday Perspectives Edition

Saturday Perspectives Edition



[Under The Hood]  Where The Votes Are: The Thing About Special Elections
Jacob Ogles, jacob.ogles@srqme.com

If history is any indicator, a Sarasota County property tax will be renewed this month with broad public support. My most recent Where The Votes Are analysis, prepared for a special event earlier this week, shows that when the measure has gone before voters before, it’s earned passage with relative ease. In fact, when you look at what might be weak points in area demographics, they don’t put the cracks in the support wall one might expect.

Afraid Sarasota’s greyer-than-average retiree population doesn’t care about the schools? More than 73 percent of the voting electorate in 2014 was over the age of 60, yet 76.9 percent of voters said YES to keeping a tax on their expensive homes to support schools where other people’s children get an education.  Nervous a special House race where Democrats upset Republicans shows a need for change? Actually, numbers from the past show Democrats get more excited about education measures, and the 2014 election marked a rare moment when Democrats outperformed Republicans in terms of turnout. But don’t worry about the Republicans either, because based on sheer volume there were still more than 4,200 more Republicans who voted than Dems and the measure still passed.

The support for the school referendum four years ago proved deep and broad. The ballot question earned majority support in 98 of 99 Sarasota County precincts, losing in just one small Nokomis precinct where only 18 voters cast ballots. Working class voters in North Port, wealthy retirees on Longboat, urbanites in Downtown Sarasota and minority voters in Newtown all seemed to agree on at least this one issue.

So why, then, do groups like Citizens for Better Schools continue to express concern about its passage everytime? At our event, speakers Pam Truitt and Dan DeLeo, supporters of the measure, stressed the revenue raised remains critical to staffing our local schools, especially when it comes to non-mandated programs like music. So the stakes are high even if risk of a loss seems low.

But the other part remains the nature of special elections. And in many ways, the school referendum illustrates what’s good and bad about holding a measure in March when no major candidate campaigns help drive voters to polls. Only 16.6 percent of eligible voters in 2014, some 45,462 voters out of 272,927 possible ones, participated in the election in 2014.  That was way down from 2010, when 27.18 percent of voters cast ballots, and 70,347 weighed in on the school referendum.

What’s the rest of the county thing? Who knows. But asking people when they really showed up to vote for president whether they also support the School Board pocketed some extra property tax feels like a risky strategy for obvious reasons. DeLeo figures educating voters on this issue while a gubernatorial or presidential election plays out in mailboxes and TV ads would prove much more costly for his political committee. And he’s likely right.

Then again, we’d know where the community as a whole stands, hopefully removing anxiety every time the issue comes up for a vote. I know some leaders are nervous recent tumult around a new superintendent may play poorly with voters this year. I doubt it, just because it’s so hard to imagine the 53.8-percent swing required to change the outcome.

That said, there’s 65,432 voters who registered in Sarasota County since the special election in 2014. And there’s roughly 30,360 voters who were on the rolls in 2014 but are now dead or gone. It’s not necessarily the some voter pool that existed back when. To a degree, every special election becomes a crapshoot.

Final thought? Take nothing for granted. Get out and vote on March 20.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor for SRQ Media Group. 

[Higher Education]  The Charm and Utility of Medieval Studies
Donal O'Shea, doshea@ncf.edu

Every other year since 1978, medieval and Renaissance scholars from colleges and universities across North America have converged on Sarasota for three days in March to participate in New College’s biennial Medieval-Renaissance conference. This year’s meeting is March 8-10. In the early years, the conference also included an associated fair, which was spun off as the for-profit Sarasota Medieval Fair.

This year’s conference features more than a hundred talks detailing recent findings on such topics as economic development in 13th-century Catalonia, hypocrites in Medieval Arabic literature, and the slave trade in the Mediterranean. Conversations outside the talks range even more broadly. One might learn of life in a medieval hamlet in what is now Norway, or leprosy and marriage, or of the breakdown in the social fabric in a Tuscan village following plague and famine. In years past, I’ve learned of the machinations accompanying the founding of the University of Pavia, the demise of a literary group in 15th-century Siena and the horrific murder of Hypatia, the great Neo-Platonist mathematician, perpetrated by a crazed Christian mob determined to erase every last trace of her learning and her beauty, her intelligence and her achievement.

The breadth of topics is unsurprising given the vast time period spanned—1,200 years. Some topics may seem arcane, but more often than not, they echo eerily in our times. Medievalists take a long view, and the window through which they observe human society is much wider than the windows of those of us who rely on personal experience of the present. They talk of the fall of empire, the loss of knowledge and the horrific winters following volcanic eruptions centuries ago. 

The conference reminds us why universities exist. Universities house scholars who devote their lives to understanding societies that have largely disappeared. These are teachers who spend vacations in archives, poring over manuscripts and materials that have survived war and pestilence and natural disasters. Those presenting at this conference will know on average six or seven languages, some long forgotten. Their aggregated knowledge is staggering. Their openness, collegiality and eagerness to share are palpable.

And of course, there are the students who will, in the courses that medievalists offer, meet versions of themselves in societies long vanished. In so doing, they will understand themselves and our society better. In time, perhaps they will use this insight to act more effectively for the greater good.

There is something magnificently selfless about all this. For me, it epitomizes what is best about the academy, and by extension, our civilization.

Members of the public are very welcome at the conference. For more information visit www.newcollegeconference.org.

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

[KUDOS]  Jennifer Vigne Elected to Education Foundation State Board

The Consortium of Florida Education Foundations (CFEF) recently elected Jennifer Vigne, President of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County, as a Member-at-Large. Vigne is one of five statewide members who, along with three statewide officers, that govern the CFEF, a membership organization for Florida’s district-wide local education foundations. Established in 1987, the CFEF seeks to maximize the individual and collective strength of Florida local education foundations to support local partners and schools.  It now has 63 member foundations and collectively 1,100 volunteer board members, raising more than $63 million annually to support students, teachers and schools through a variety of programs. 

Education Foundation of Sarasota County

[SCOOP ]  National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

This month, as the U.S. recognizes National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, Goodwill Manasota is calling on area businesses to consider hiring individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, which takes place in March each year, is an opportunity to increase public awareness of the needs and potential of Americans with developmental disabilities. Intellectual and developmental disabilities may include Down syndrome, autism, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, fetal alcohol syndrome, and other disorders. When President Reagan initially proclaimed the observance in 1987, he said, “I urge all Americans to join me in according to our fellow citizens with such disabilities both encouragement and the opportunities they need to lead productive lives and to achieve their full potential.”Goodwill Manasota is dedicated to helping people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to achieve personal and professional success through its employment and training programs. While the organization employs numerous employees with a range of disabilities and other impediments to finding work, Goodwill’s Supported JobsPlus (SJP) program targets sustainable employment for those with significant disabilities. It identifies positions throughout the organization to earmark for a person with a disability. Through partnerships with agencies throughout Sarasota, Manatee, Hardee and DeSoto counties, individuals who have been unsuccessful obtaining employment elsewhere and have a desire to work are referred to Goodwill. Currently, Goodwill Manasota employs 84 team members, nearly 11 percent of its total workforce through the SJP program. 

Goodwill Manasota

[SCOOP ]  Sisterhood For Good Accepting Grant Applications

Sisterhood For Good, an all-volunteer donor-advised fund of the Manatee Community Foundation, is now accepting grant applications from non-profit organizations throughout the Sarasota-Manatee area. Sisterhood for Good raises funds to support projects and programs for a variety of causes, including women’s and children’s issues, animal welfare, arts and education, health and safety and hunger and homelessness.  In 2017, the giving circle received a record number of applications and awarded grants to the following: Humane Society of Sarasota; InStride Therapy; Josh Provides; Mothers Helping Mothers; The Mark Wandall Foundation; The Players Centre for Performing arts; and The Tiny Hands Foundation. Those applying for grants are asked to submit a completed application form that summarizes their non-profit and illustrates how a grant from Sisterhood for Good will make an immediate, direct impact to a specific project or cause. Proof of 501(c)(3) status is also required. Applications can be submitted online at www.SisterhoodForGood.org and are due by April 30th to be selected for the 2018 grant distribution. 

Sisterhood For Good

[SCOOP ]  Trapeze Lessons Under the Big Top

While the iconic Sailor Circus Arena goes under long-awaited renovations, flying trapeze lessons will now be held on an outside rig at the Big Top behind the Mall at UTC within Nathan Benderson Park. This class is perfect for both adults and children, whether they are local, looking to cross something off their bucket list or wanting to try a new fitness routine. Plus, the new location of the trapeze will expand the reach of the community class to even more amateur circus artists, travelers, spring breakers and more. Participants can learn the basics of the flying trapeze including swing development, body awareness, strength development and swinging unassisted. Depending on participant experience level, positions to the net will be explored. Classes will take place Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 10:00am to 12:00PM for $50. 

Circus Arts Conservatory

[SCOOP ]  SCD Day of Dance

Sarasota Contemporary Dance is opening its doors to the community with a free day of dance for adults and children in celebration of the company's long-anticipated arrival at its new 3,000 square-foot home at 1400 Blvd of the Arts, Suite 300 in Sarasota's downtown Rosemary District. The celebration, on March 11th will feature children's activities from 1-3pm, a ribbon cutting ceremony with cake and refreshments from 3- 4pm, and adult programs from 4:15 – 6pm. Artistic Director, Leymis Bolaños Wilmott explained that one of the great draws for SCD Day of Dance is its multi-generational nature and variety of activities, from pop-up performances by company members to mini dance classes throughout the day, dance jams and an official ribbon cutting. The event is free and open to the public; no reservations or dance experience necessary. 

Sarasota Contemporary Dance

SRQ Media Group

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