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SRQ Daily Jun 9, 2018

Saturday Perspectives Edition

Saturday Perspectives Edition

"This easy truth masks the fact Sarasota/Bradenton and Cambridge feel similar precisely because both are college towns. "

- Donal O'Shea, New College of Florida
 

[Under The Hood]  The Right Questions About a New Cop Shop
Jacob Ogles, jacob.ogles@srqme.com

At a time when the public fears for the safety of their own children when dropped off for class, it’s hard to discern parents’ worst fears from genuine concerns. Thus, recent debate about Sarasota County school protection traversed to some odd places.

The Sarasota County School Board plans to open its own police department dedicated to campus security, and has narrowed a search for a police chief to three. The move inspired cries of whether this government agency can manage a law enforcement agency, and how resources will be allocated to launch this venture. The latter question will be of great consequence to a school district that prides itself on staying competitive in its hiring and performance. The former serves as a political flashpoint, inflaming debate instead of illuminating it.

While student resource officers today in Sarasota County report to other law enforcement officials, it’s important to know many police jurisdictions operate here, including ones dedicated to school protection. Most realize the cities of Sarasota, Venice, North Port and Longboat Key run their own police departments, but New College of Florida and the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee also share a Campus Police. The Sarasota Bradenton International Airport has a force as well. Sarasota County already serves as home to 10 different law enforcement entities, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Uniform Crime Report.

Now, college and airport authority police deal almost exclusively in property crime, and thankfully have little experience with active shootings. But with major incidents like that, police agencies assist one another. When shootings took place at the Pulse night club in Orlando, the Fort Lauderdale International Airport in Broward County and at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland—three mass shootings in the state of Florida over less than two years—you could spot a host of police uniforms.

And police agencies don’t grow officers in secret laboratories. Yes, every agency provides training, develops procedures and sets their own standards by which professionalism will be judged. But officers move from job to job as in any field. In the state of Florida, all law enforcement officers must complete state-required training and pass a standard certification exam. Uniform requirements like a clean felony record apply to anyone applying to become a sworn officer. Many who end up wearing a badge here completed training at facilities run by the Sarasota County School Board. So stop thinking this police force will be manned by whoever fits in a uniform.

That said, there’s serious issues to consider with the School Board’s choice of direction. State Rep. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, supported a controversial state mandate to heighten school security, but says Sarasota schools elected the most expensive way to do so, the “Cadillac plan.”

What’s that entail? District spokeswoman Tracey Beeker says the district next year will hire 21 to 24 student resource officers for elementary school, and likely still rely on other agencies to cover middle and high school. The next year, the district police plans to have 55 SROs. Maybe more important financially, the district plans to have a chief and three sergeants. At least in its first year there could be a cost savings, but the plan will still cost more than $3 million, more than the state has provided to pay for more security.

Granted, providing school security on the cheap brings its own political criticism. Sarasota could just arm non-essential staff members, the cheapest option, though  putting guns in the hands of non-officers proved one of the most contentious parts of the new legislation. It’s the low-cost plan, and one some charter schools will employ. The school could also follow Manatee County’s lead and supplement sheriff’s deputies with private, non-sworn security.

The real challenge in the option Sarasota chose will not be professionalism of officers but creation of bureaucracy. A chief will report to a public safety director as Sarasota’s police chief answers to the city manager. But the mid-level management costs are something Sarasota district leaders must address before moving forward. Fear-mongering won’t produce answers.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor of SRQ Media Group 

[Higher Education]  Vive la Difference.
Donal O'Shea, doshea@ncf.edu

The Wall Street Journal last January published an article by a long-time frequent visitor to Sarasota that extolled the charms of our little corner of the world.  The author, Alexander Lobrano, talks about the cheese shop downtown (due to move soon to the Rosemary district), the Amish doughnut truck, our newly opened chocolate shop and the wonderful Bookstore 1. He approvingly mentions the beaches, our neighborhoods, the Ringling Museum of Art and singles out several restaurants. He recounts conversations he has had with others on the evolution of the region and favorably compares Sarasota to Cambridge, Massachusetts. And then he adds, parenthetically, that Sarasota lacks a Harvard. 

This easy truth masks the fact Sarasota/Bradenton and Cambridge feel similar precisely because both are college towns. We do not have a large, venerable research university like Harvard or MIT, but we have a group, called the Cross College Alliance, of five extraordinary younger institutions that work together, though they could hardly be more different.

In addition to FSU—Ringling, which is the arts campus of Florida State University, the CCA has a fine regional comprehensive university (University of South Florida, Sarasota-Manatee), a nationally ranked liberal arts college (New College of Florida), a nationally ranked arts and technical college (Ringling College of Art & Design) and an excellent former community college (State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota).  Full-time students at any one of the institutions can take classes at any other for credit at their home institution with no additional tuition. The differences between the institutions offer this area’s students, faculty and residents opportunities that they would not have at a single institution.  

The recently-minted articulation agreement between State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota and New College of Florida illustrates the benefits that difference brings.  All students at NCF attend full-time; many at SCF attend part-time. NCF is residential (almost students live on campus); SCF is not. Admission to NCF is highly selective; admission to SCF is open to all students who have successfully completed high school. All NCF classes are face-to-face; many SCF courses are online. Common sense would suggest that these differences would preclude collaboration.   

Nonetheless, the new agreement guarantees admission to NCF to any SCF student who completes their associate in arts degree at SCF within two years and with a 3.0 GPA.

What makes this work is that each institution values high-quality teaching and learning and each advises students to take rigorous humanities and science courses in their first two years. This makes it easy for the colleges to identify a slate of prerequisite courses for the guaranteed admission programs at New College.  

It also shows the value of the differences between CCA  institutions means. Students who would not have considered New College after high school, or who would not have been admitted due to limited space or because they did not hit their stride until later, now have an alternate pathway to our four year degree. And the collaboration does not end here. For example, under the terms of the broad CCA agreement, New College students interested in attending medical school can take a human anatomy course at SCF. 

Now imagine how these possibilities multiply when one considers collaborations among all pairs, all triples, and all groups of institutions in the CCA. The independence of these institutions and the differences between them provide strengths that a single institution, or two similar institutions, cannot match. And these strengths will serve our community very well over the next couple of decades in this new century.  

In the meantime, the 20,000 students and faculty at these institutions will frequent the cheese shop, the bookstore, the restaurants and the bars, and spawn new business and collaborations that will shape our regional economy, as the students in Cambridge have done for more than four centuries. Vive la Différence.

Dr. Donal O'Shea is president of New College of Florida. 

[On Politics]  Single-Member Districts Will Restore Power to Neighbors
James D. Keeney

I was disappointed to see a highly partisan analysis of the upcoming Sarasota County referendum on single-member districts in your newspaper last week. The article was written by the vice chairman of one of our local political parties and did not hesitate to base its entire argument on baldly partisan political concerns. He also derided single-member districts as “ward politics,” trying unsuccessfully to paint them with all the evils of large, densely populated northern cities.

In fact, the upcoming referendum to give Sarasota County single-member districts is not partisan at all, but something that every voter and citizen should view only from the standpoint of what will give our hugely spread-out and fast-growing county the best and most effective government. Fundamentally, it is also a question of whose concerns should have priority: those of individual voters and neighborhoods or those of land developers and big money?

At present, Sarasota County has five commissioners. Our charter requires that each must reside in the district he or she represents, yet each is elected by the entire electorate. So anyone wishing to represent her own district as a county commissioner must campaign to obtain the support of voters of all five county districts—all the way from the Charlotte County line to the UTC Mall. This campaigning costs big money. Each candidate must reach a huge number of civic groups, churches, businesses, prospective voters and campaign workers in several large media markets. It is almost as if, in order to become a United States Senator from Florida, one had to court voters all the way from Alaska and California to Georgia and Maine—as well as voters in Florida itself.

The money behind these large, county-wide campaigns is mostly dark money from PACs funded by big developers and their rich friends. The commissioners who get elected by filling our mailboxes with glossy flyers often vote as if they are for sale to the highest bidder or already in the pockets of large developers. There seems to be almost no limit to the outrages they will support. Destroy a critical wetland to build a Whole Foods store? No problem. Increase density at the overcrowded intersection of Stickney Point Road and U.S. 41? Why not? Reduce impact fees needed to build enough roads, schools and fire stations for all the new residents? If we don’t, we’ll destroy jobs. Build a cement crushing plant next to our world-class bird watching sanctuary? Even this idea sounded fine to them until incensed neighboring residents flooded the commission chambers to protest.

The answer to this madness is to vote “Yes” on the referendum to give us single-member districts for our county commissioner elections. This non-partisan reform will reduce each candidate’s campaign expenses by 80 percent since they will only have to persuade the 20 percent of county voters who live closest to them. More knocking on doors and speaking to neighborhood groups will make them more beholden to their neighborhood constituents than to big developers and dark money donors. Each section of the county will have a dedicated advocate to voice the interests of its own constituents.

Developers and their dark money will fight hard to defeat this citizen initiative petition to amend the county charter. They prefer the sort of commissioners we have now. Please disregard their slick, well-funded attacks and vote your own interest in good government. Vote “Yes” in November to change county commission elections to single-member districts.

James D. Keeney is a retired member of the Florida Bar 

[On Government]  Have a say on the next 100 years at Bobby Jones
Sue Martin

Bobby Jones Golf Club’s mission statement says in part that we will “grow the game of golf by providing an enjoyable experience on well-maintained courses in a price range that is affordable to all residents and visitors of the City of Sarasota.”

For nearly 100 years, that is what we have done. Originally opened in 1926 and re-named on Feb. 13, 1927, after the amateur golf legend, the City-owned Bobby Jones Golf Club helped solidify Sarasota’s reputation as the “cradle of golf” in the United States. During that time, the course served generations of residents and visitors of all skill levels. We are also proud of our history as the first golf course in Florida to desegregate. Bobby Jones has been an economic generator, an environmental gem, an attraction and a source of community pride in our City.

As the only government-owned golf course in Sarasota County, we offer a unique experience at an affordable price. Our average rate for the whole year is $23, well below most courses in the county and around the nation. And while the average rate for a full round of golf at courses in the county during high season (roughly Christmas to Easter) is more than $82, Bobby Jones’ highest seasonal rate is $49.

Featuring 45 holes on three courses and the historic designs of famed course architect Donald Ross, Bobby Jones has something for everyone, from beginning golfers to serious players. Paul Azinger honed his skills at Bobby Jones before going on to earn 12 professional titles on the PGA Tour. Our club hosts seven annual tournaments, as well as various camps, clinics and golf lessons. We pride ourselves on the excellent customer service we provide to all who visit us. It continues to be a community favorite.

During the Great Recession, tough financial decisions led to lower maintenance levels at the course. Now, many capital improvements are long overdue. Studies by our consultant, Richard Mandell Golf Architecture, and by City staff found Bobby Jones’ tee boxes, sand bunkers, fairways, irrigation control system, irrigation heads and piping are all more than 30 years old and should have been replaced years if not decades ago.

As part of an important regional floodplain, the course was designed to draw excess water away from nearby residences. But poor drainage, combined with an aging and failing irrigation system, forces the closure of the courses when it rains, sometimes for days at a time, which negatively impacts the aesthetics of greens and fairways—and ultimately the bottom line for Bobby Jones.

The Bobby Jones Golf Club mission statement also says we will strive to be “a financially self-sustaining enterprise account operation,” and I am confident we can return to be self-sustaining again when it comes to operating costs. Improvements are needed, though, and we want to continue the community conversation about how to drive Bobby Jones toward a triumphant centennial in 2027. 

We’ve heard from over 100 patrons and neighbors over the past year during six walking tours and multiple community meetings about the recommendations in the Bobby Jones Golf Club Master Plan, and we appreciate their feedback and ideas so far. For golfers and non-golfers alike who haven’t yet provided input, have more to share or have questions, the City is hosting a series of public meetings:

June 13:

  • 2 p.m. at Payne Park Auditorium, 2100 Laurel St., Sarasota
  • 5:30 p.m. at Robert L. Taylor Community Complex, 1845 John Rivers St., Sarasota

June 14:

  • 10 a.m. at City Hall, SRQ Media Studio, 1565 First St., Sarasota
  • 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, SRQ Media Studio, 1565 First St., Sarasota

Whether you are a Bobby Jones regular or haven’t visited us in years, we want to hear from you about this incredible 300-acre swath of urban parkland. How do you envision the course in the future?  What is most important to you? Your feedback will help us set a path for the next 100 years at Bobby Jones Golf Club. We look forward to hearing from you.

Sue Martin is the golf course manager at Bobby Jones Golf Club. Visit www.BobbyJonesGolfClub.com for more info. 



[SCOOP ]  SMH-SMA High School Oncology Internship

Sarasota Memorial’s Cancer Institute team recognized six high school students from Sarasota Military Academy (SMA) who helped pilot a new oncology internship program at the hospital this year. The six cadets spent two hours each week for four months during the school’s fall and spring semester, rotating through different areas of the hospital, shadowing physicians, pathologists, oncology navigators, nurses, clinical educators and other cancer care specialists, as they learned about topics ranging from diagnostic testing and genetic counseling to advanced cancer treatments and clinical trials. The students were selected by SMA based on academic performance and their deep interest in the medical field. “The feedback from the first high school internship was overwhelmingly positive,” said Tamela Fonseca, MSN, clinical manager of oncology at SMH. “We look forward to sharing and inspiring more students each semester.”  

Sarasota Memorial Healthcare

[SCOOP ]  Final Days to Experience Warhol at Selby Gardens

June is the final month to view the widely-praised exhibition “Warhol: Flowers in the Factory” at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens before its closing June 30. Enjoy one final installment of “Warhol Nights” with the Sarasota Music Festival June 13, and one final Andy’s Art Factory family day June 16. Enjoy the Garden Music Series June 17, the final outdoor concert of the season with Brazilian guitarist Diego Figueiredo and vocalist Chiara Izzi. 

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

[SCOOP ]  Jungle Books Opens at the Asolo

If you are a fan of science, literature, music, astonishing visual effects or simply great theatre, the Canadian Kidoons/WYRD world premiere production of “Jungle Book” is an experience you do not want to miss. Brought to us by the same team as last season’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, this visually stunning performance reimagines author Rudyard Kipling’s timeless stories through modern eyes to transport audiences to the jungles of India. The show is perfect for children and adult alike. Tickets are available online, by phone and in person at the box office, from $10-$36. 

Asolo Repertory Theatre

[SCOOP ]  Sponsor the 2nd Annual Grey Matters Symposium

Don't miss out on this year's amazing Grey Matters Luncheon Symposium benefitting The Roskamp Institute. Sponsor Registration goes live July 1 at www.RoskampInstitute.org/events. This year's luncheon will be held on Sepember 28 from 11am-1:30pm at Michael's on the Bay at Selby Gardens. The Alzheimer's Disease-Research based interactive Symposium will focus on lifestyle, wellness and healthy aging. For early sponsor registration please call Megan Micale at (941) 552-9832. Capacity is limited, and sponsorships are sold on a "first come first serve" basis.  

Roskamp Institute

[SCOOP]  Help With Immediate Needs for Selah Freedom

Support Selah Freedom’s safe homes for sex trafficking victims in Florida and in the Midwest by contributing toward their immediate, urgent needs; these include quick drawing in auto cad, interior painters, donated interior paint, stripping and staining wood flooring and funding for new roof. Contact volunteer@selahfreedom.com to get involved.


 

Selah Freedom

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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