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SRQ DAILY Jul 28, 2018

"Tackling the opioid epidemic in Florida will not be accomplished overnight and will require the energy and efforts of partners on all levels."

- Sydney Gruters, USDA Rural Development

[Under The Hood]  Good and Graham Swinging for Glass Ceiling
Jacob Ogles, jacob.ogles@srqme.com

As the woman who could become Florida’s first female governor stumped in Sarasota this week, she turned to the region’s biggest Democratic star for a boost. State Rep. Margaret, D-Sarasota, took the stage at the Francis Thursday to throw her personal support behind gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham.

“I believe in breaking glass ceilings,” Good said to cheers. 

Graham, of course, hasn’t shied from the history-making potential of her campaign. As she touted the significance of this election here, she reminded voters how the next governor, “whoever she is,” could set Florida on a different path on numerous issues. Her platform includes stances especially popular with women voters, from increasing public education funding—a key part of Good’s platform—to stopping state legislation aimed at putting Roe v. Wade back before the Supreme Court.

There’s other similarities between Good and Graham that make their political relationship feel natural. Good stunned the country in February by winning a state House election in a district with nearly 12,000 more Republicans registered than Democrats, a place President Trump by 5 percent in 2016. Graham’s greatest electoral achievement to date remains unseating Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Panama City, in 2014, a Republican year when only two GOP House members lost re-election nationwide.

Graham incidentally had been an early believer in Good, campaigning in Sarasota three weeks before any gubernatorial hopeful canvassed in the House race. “It shows the kind of engagement she has in the process,” Good told me. “Other candidates campaigned for our election too, but I believe she is the kind of leader who will actually show up and work.”

The “woman power” aspect of Good and Graham’s partnership clearly makes sense for both politicians. Both must overcome challenges this year. Graham first needs to win the nomination in a crowded Democratic field. While she’s leading in polls by Florida Atlantic University, Mason-Dixon and Gravis, all her challengers seems capable of closing in. Even presuming she wins the nod, no Democrat has won the governor’s mansion since Lawton Chiles in 1994.

As for Good, she won her primary unopposed but in November faces a Republican challenger, possibly newcomer Jason Miller but likely former state Rep. Ray Pilon, who won this district (or a slightly bluer version of it) three times. And this fall, she won’t be the sole focus of national Democrats anxious to win every isolated special election.

But both women have wind at their backs. The first mid-term of a new presidential administration, when even popular presidents usually get punished, should help Democrats up and down the ballot.

And while Florida boasts just 40 women among 160 state lawmakers, the majority of voters on the Gulf Coast are female, and women politicians here perform well. They make up majorities on the Sarasota and North Port city commissions, and until 2016 filled most of Sarasota County’s commission seats. A series of female lawmakers—Katherine Harris, Lisa Carlton and Nancy Detert—represented the area in the state Senate from 1994 through 2016.

In the District 72 race in February, about 2,600 more Republicans than Democrats voted but Good won anyway. Theories of what put her over the top abound, but most agree her gender helped vanquish a male opponent. SRQ’s Where The Votes Are analysis after the February election found women voters outnumbered men in the district by more than 10,000. And of those who voted in the rare special election, 23,913 checked female on their voter registration compared to 19,351 who checked male.

Good surely finds much kinship with Graham, but her nomination would help politically as well. Good will benefit if more women feel inspired to vote this fall. Having Graham on the ballot this November would surely provide her with a welcome lift.  

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor for SRQ Media Group. 

Picture from Good campaign: Margaret Good, left, with Gwen Graham at The Francis.

[Higher Education]  Inspiring Our Youth
Dr. Larry Thompson, lthompso@ringling.edu

Greatness Beyond Measure.

What an incredibly powerful phrase. But what is it and what does it mean for our entire community? More than you can possibly imagine. It’s just that—“beyond measure.”

Affectionately referred to as “GBM,” this important initiative was launched by Executive Producer Melanie Thomas in 2008. I recall the day Melanie approached me about hosting this Greatness Beyond Measure event on our campus. Because the program is focused on young people being able to dream about their future and recognizing they could be whatever they wanted to be, I felt Ringling College was the perfect place to host such a program. GBM participants, who are primarily from this area, learn a variety of things throughout the experience—including leadership development, career exploration, networking opportunities and an exploration of their future opportunities. Little did I know that this one year when I gave Melanie permission to host on campus would turn into what is now the organization’s 10th Anniversary.

So, let me back up and explain about this important teen summit held right here in Sarasota. A three-day offering filled with opportunities for young people to share and expand their creative gifts and aspirations as musicians, dancers, poets, artists and entrepreneurs, techies, etc., GBM has developed a powerhouse mentoring and networking community to help guide the young participants through to a professional career in whatever field they choose.

As Ms. Thomas explained to me, it’s all about empowering these young people for life. This is their mission. They believe deeply in “igniting the genius within,” and in inspiring youth to both believe and achieve. So powerful, because when you think about it, that is exactly what education—especially higher education—is all about.

So what is it specifically that GBM does? GBM hosts and broadcasts eight annual events. This weekend includes three-days of offerings, including an American Idol-style showcase, a Stomp the Violence poster contest and dance competition, a FunTech Experience giving participants the opportunity to explore technology including Virtual Reality, Google Paintbrush and Lego Robotics, and of course the Anniversary Celebration of Greatness. Thomas and her colleagues were able to get Microsoft on board as a sponsor this year, and I’m so pleased our Ringling College faculty are also playing a part to help facilitate this experience. Perfect timing with the launch of our new major in Virtual Reality Development this fall. You just never know what will strike a chord with these young people and what could possibly change their life forever.

In addition to our Sarasota-Manatee teens, including many participants from our neighboring Newtown community, teens are coming to Sarasota from many places, including, Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta and Miami, to name a few. We at Ringling College are so happy to host and contribute to what we hope will be an inspiring and transformative experience for each of these and their families.

Fostering the creative leaders of tomorrow is what Ringling College does day in and day out on our campus, so aligning with GBM’s goal of “igniting the genius that resides within” seems the perfect pairing.

This community needs to give a big thank you to Greatness Beyond Measure, showcasing Sarasota’s and Ringling College’s commitment to inspiring our youth. The future is surely bright.

Dr. Larry Thompson is president of Ringling College of Art and Design. 

[On City Politics]  Administrative Approval Not what Rescued Downtown
Mollie Cardamone

Several assertions made last Saturday in SRQ Daily by Christine Robinson, executive director of Argus, were absolutely wrong. She claims administrative approval rescued a dying city. She stated that in 2001, our Main Street and downtown was a “ghost town.” How wrong she is.

I retired from office in the spring of 2001 and can list numerous facts supporting my statement. In my eight years on the City Commission (without administrative approval but with public hearings on most downtown projects), we saw huge cranes everywhere! We were the first Main Street in America to have a 20-screen movie theater; the Ritz Carlton opened in downtown in 2001; condos were built on the bayfront; and best of all we opened the county library in the middle of downtown, placed appropriately “where the people are.” There were very few vacancies on Main Street, with shops and restaurants flourishing. Those are just a few of the significant projects we accomplished. So NO, Christine, the introduction of administrative approval did not rescue our downtown. The redevelopment began in the mid 1990s.

It is important to realize how disgusted and disturbed so many of our citizens are... you know, the local folks who live in our city. Not the developers, many from out of town, who take advantage of us by maximizing their building to every square inch of space and refusing to contribute any more to the city than the minimum demanded by the code. Our citizens are horrified by those skinny sidewalks, buildings looming over the street, lack of compatibility standards and other problems mostly created because the City Commission has no say in how our downtown looks and feels.

I love our city and am proud of being part of the catalyst for redevelopment; I enjoy the amenities, and even if it seems too late, there is still much redevelopment to take place. I wholeheartedly believe we must return to a situation of public comment and review to rescue our city from all that has happened in recent years.

Mollie Cardamone is a former mayor of Sarasota. 

[On City Politics]  Bring Citizens Back to Approval Process
Kate Lowman

According to last week’s column from Christine Robinson, the executive director of The Argus Foundation, the City’s original adoption of the Duany plan in 2001 stipulated “administrative approval” of new buildings, which is to say no formal public input into the approval process. Furthermore, she argues that this system of excluding citizens resulted in a transformation of the city from a “ghost town… on life support” to the current boom. Both statements are absolutely incorrect.

In fact, when the City Commission initially adopted the plan, it did not contain administrative approval, and this process was only included after the development community (including Argus) initiated a challenge against the city. There were many complaints in that. Two of those—by no means the most important—were a lack of certainty and a lack of incentives.

Developers argued that allowing citizen input would prevent the certainty of development approval. Apparently the sitting Commissioners 1) wanted to end the challenge, and 2) believed the code would be so good that citizen input was not needed.

Much of the negotiation process was carried out behind closed doors, resulting in little public discussion of the merits of administrative approval vs. public hearings. There was no discussion of adopting alternative methods to facilitate the approval process—public input was viewed as an all or nothing proposition, and the City Commission chose nothing.

Seventeen years later, we are all living with the results, and they are not as rosy as promised. The concept of “certainty” to be provided by the zoning code has played out in full for developers, but not so much for citizens. Narrow sidewalks, lot-line to lot-line buildings, unsafe construction practices and a general failure to consider quality of life or compatibility all mar the picture. Citizens and commissioners alike are excluded from the approval process and staff—which is reluctant to enforce compatibility on its own authority—bears the brunt of citizen anger at the results.

We all love Sarasota—that is why we live here. But it is time to bring citizens back to the approval process for new buildings and it is time to fix the most problematic parts of the code. In fact, it is past time, and our City Commissioners and Administration must take on this task.

Kate Lowman is a steering committee member for STOP! 

[On Public Health]  Hope in Midst of Rural America's Opioids Crisis
Sydney Gruters, Sydney.gruters@fl.usda.gov

Opioid misuse seems to be a topic on the minds and in the hearts of so many Americans these days. Most of us know someone who has been personally affected by this horrific epidemic. Rural America is being hit especially hard.

In October 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced rates of drug overdose deaths are rising in rural areas, surpassing those in urban areas. In addition, a December 2017 survey by the National Farmers Union and the American Farm Bureau Federation found that as many as 74 percent of farmers have been directly impacted by the opioid crisis. In Florida, an opioid related death occurs every two and half hours. The United States Department of Agriculture, Rural Development Assistant to the Secretary Anne Hazlett points out “The opioid epidemic is a pivotal challenge for many rural places. More than a health concern, the opioid crisis is an issue of rural prosperity and will take the commitment, collaboration and creativity of a wide range of partners to address." I am encouraged to report that I have personally witnessed firsthand these actions taking place in Florida.

I recently attended the Florida Association of Counties annual conference in Orlando. This year’s conference included an opioid forum that examined the drug crisis in America. Industry leaders including front-line physicians, policy makers, law enforcement officers and technology experts shared how they were joining forces to combat opioid misuse. The workshops also facilitated discussions on viable strategies to confront this public health crisis as well as recommendations on new approaches for providing vital support to those in need.

As a participant, it was hard to not be overwhelmed by the many stories of personal tragedy and the harsh statistics. At the same time, optimism remained. Heroic efforts are being made by the State of Florida, nonprofits and highly engaged county and local leaders. The ongoing efforts were inspiring and an “all hands-on deck” approach conveyed throughout the forum offered hope we will turn this tragedy around.

I am eager to let you know that USDA is also approaching the opioid crisis with a renewed and dedicated urgency. Our staff personally understands how the epidemic is devastating to its victims and their families. Drug misuse has a compounding ripple effect throughout communities, affecting quality of life, economic opportunity and rural prosperity. No one remains unaffected.

Through leadership provided by Secretary Sonny Perdue and Assistant to the Secretary Hazlett, USDA is investing in prevention, treatment and recovery in our rural communities through a variety of programs.

For example, local municipalities, non-profit organizations and Federally recognized tribes can apply through the Rural Development Community Facilities loan and grant application process for projects such as mobile treatment clinics. Through our Distance Learning and Telemedicine grant program, applicants receive priority for telemedicine projects with the primary purpose of providing prevention, treatment or recovery services.

In addition to program investment and through our innovation center, Rural Development has established a core workgroup with staff across the country focused on response activity, best practices and information-sharing. They recently launched an interactive rural opioid misuse resources map on the USDA opioid webpage. This map will act as a library where we can deposit information about resources for prevention, treatment and recovery.

Tackling the opioid epidemic in Florida will not be accomplished overnight and will require the energy and efforts of partners on all levels. As State Director for USDA Rural Development in Florida, I want to hear from you about what’s working in Florida—and what we can do better.

Together, we can ensure that our rural communities continue to prosper, and that USDA investments help turn this crisis around.

Sydney Gruters is the Florida/U.S. Virgin Island state director for USDA Rural Development. 

[SCOOP]  JFC Launches BeyondMe

BeyondMe, a new, transformative initiative led by JFCS of the Suncoast to engage young professionals in creative philanthropy was met with open arms and minds at the kick-off party on July 16. Held at Michael’s on East, more than 285 professionals ages 21-45 attended the BeyondMe debut, where they learned about this “platform for good” and collaborative effort with other local non-profits.  This new entry-into-philanthropy program aims to broaden awareness of the numerous charities and opportunities with the goal of fostering volunteerism and inspiring these individuals to become change makers in the community. “Our goal is that by educating and engaging the younger generation about what different charities do, they will become donors and supporters of the organizations that resonated with them through this program,” said Laura McManus-Mesia, chief development officer for JFCS.  


[KUDOS]  Rock the Boat Regatta

Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County hosted the 2nd Annual Rock the Boat Regatta with Intertape Polymer Group (IPG) and Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office on July 20, at the Lee Wetherington Boys & Girls Club pool. Fourteen teams made up of Lee Wetherington Boys & Girls Club members, as well as, representatives from IPG and Sarasota County Sheriff's Office, raced homemade boats of all shapes and sizes. Each boat was constructed at the Lee Wetherington Boys & Girls Club two weeks prior to the event using only cardboard and a variety of IPG’s advanced tape products. The event featured three brackets including the 9-12-year-olds, teens and CEOs. IPG’s President Greg Yull and their boat named Gator Done took first place in the CEO race while Bill Sadlo, President/CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County, took second with his Hulk-themed boat. Sheriff Tom Knight and his vessel inspired by their Marine Unit placed third.  

Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota

[SCOOP]  PINC Celebrates Fifth Anniversary

Dubbed the most creative day of the year, PINC returns to the Sarasota Opera House on December 6. An initiative of DreamLarge, and presented by Ringling College of Art and Design, the day-long event will mark its fifth year in Sarasota with a diverse selection of inspiring, creative, and captivating speakers. PINC is People, Ideas, Nature, Creativity. The experience aims to bring together thought leaders, innovators, creative thinkers, entrepreneurs, specialists, designers, artists, scientists, and people looking to stimulate their mind, heart and brain. DreamLarge is delighted to announce Nashra Balagamwala and John Marzluff as two of those creative thinkers this year. Balagamwala is an experiential designer from Pakistan who specializes in game and event design, recognized globally by media outlets such as BBC, Fortune, and The Times of India. Marzluff studies birds and how humans affect them through urbanization, along with the way they affect people, art, or language in turn. His research has been the focus of articles in The New York Times, National Geographic and Time, and has received accolades such as the H.R. Painton Award from the Cooper Ornithological Society. 


[SCOOP]  Van Wezel Foundation Launches New Website

The Van Wezel Foundation announced their commitment to partner with The Bay and the Sarasota Bayfront Planning Organization board to coordinate communication and planning efforts that will garner support in early September by City Commission to move forward with the proposed master plan. This comes on the heels of The Bay and Sasaki Associates releasing an updated final master plan for the 53-acre bayfront site between Boulevard of the Arts and 12th Street in Sarasota last month. The new plan includes the new performing arts center as the cultural centerpiece for the redevelopment of the site. The launch of a new brand and website to promote the creation of a new multi-venue center in Sarasota is aptly called Sarasota Performing Arts Center. The new site,www.SarasotaPerformingArtsCenter.org, will house community testimonials and demonstrate support for the creation of a new center, frequently asked questions updated weekly, and pathways to learn more about the progress through new social channels. 

Sarasota Performing Arts Center

[SCOOP]  Orioles Announce Plans for 2019 Dream Week in Sarasota

Orioles fans can enjoy a week filled with once-in-a-lifetime opportunities at the club’s 2019 Dream Week, from January 27 to February 2. Open to adults age 30 or older, regardless of skill level, Dream Week provides fans with an opportunity to play at the Orioles’ year-round baseball facilities at Ed Smith Stadium and the Buck O’Neil Baseball Complex. Participants will play daily doubleheader intrasquad games and receive instruction from National Baseball Hall of Famer and Orioles legend Jim Palmer and former Orioles Al Bumbry, Rick Dempsey, Mike Devereaux, Chris Hoiles, Scott McGregor, Gregg Olson and more; they will receive beachfront accommodations on Lido Key, a personalized home uniform, alternate jersey, cap, personalized clubhouse locker, access to Orioles athletic trainers and clubhouse staff, daily breakfast and lunch at the ballpark, evening social events throughout the week and more. 

Orioles in Sarasota

[KUDOS]  Goodwill Manasota Receives Grant for GoodPartner Coach Program

Goodwill Manasota received a grant of $75,000 from the Ralph S. French Charitable Foundation in support of the award-winning GoodPartner Coach program. This is the eighth year that Goodwill has received funding from the French Foundation for this purpose. The GoodPartner Coach program offers individuals with disabilities and other barriers to employment with job training and case management services. The goal is to enable those who may have been overlooked elsewhere to gain positive personal and workplace behaviors and skills, feel the pride of earning a paycheck and move toward self-sufficiency, build a strong work history, and develop the experience and skills to position them for higher paying jobs outside of Goodwill. Through the program, team members participate in a career needs assessment, the development of an individualized case management plan, and then go through training components to reach ultimate desired outcomes. Job performance and educational benchmarks are set, providing clear expectations for career advancement readiness.  

Goodwill Manasota

[SCOOP]  Fast Track Pathway to a Career

CareerEdge Funders Collaborative has partnered with eight local automotive dealerships to provide a fast-track pathway to becoming an automotive technician.  Given the shortage of mechanics, CareerEdge worked with Suncoast Technical College (STC) to create an “express program” in the evenings so that entry-level employees can receive both on-the-job as well as classroom training. Participating employers include: Gettel Automotive, Sunset Auto Group, PetersonToyota of Sarasota, Venice Honda, Wilde Automotive, Sarasota Mitsubishi, and Howard Lincoln and Mazda.  These organizationswill hire individuals with no experience at $12 per hour for full or part-time trainee positions.  The new hires must then attend the mandatory, free 11-week automotive training program at STC’s Beneva Road campus on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m., from August 21 to October 30. After completing the 11-week class, they will be paid $13 per hour full time with benefits and have the potential for additional industry certifications and growth at the dealerships.  Average wages for mechanics are between $40,000 and $50,000, with some earning upwards of six figures. The training, funded by Gulf Coast Community Foundation donor Walt Eppard, is a revised version of the college’s year-long program and includes CareerEdge’s Bridges to Careers soft skills training, as well as financial education class. 


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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