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SRQ Daily Oct 13, 2018

Saturday Perspectives Edition

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Saturday Perspectives Edition

"Was this a trick, some kinda shady underhanded scheme meant to confuse, to kidnap the hearts and minds of Democrats? Yes, and it came straight from the top."

- Diana Hamilton, CityBeat
 

[Under The Hood]  What Will Single Member Districts Really Mean?
Jacob Ogles, jacob.ogles@srqme.com

Among the litany of issues Sarasota County voters consider this year will be whether to switch to single-member districts when electing county commissioners. It’s fairly easy to see why this inspires sharp partisan divide. Democrats lament no one from the blue team has won a seat on the commission since 1966. Republicans, well, they don’t see a problem with that.

But what could single-member districts truly mean down the road? I see a lot of good myself, mostly getting members to focus on regional concerns and therefore developing political diversity. But I’m not so sure the most enthusiastic supporters hold a realistic view what will occur. Taking a hard look at the make-up of districts today further demonstrates that.

For example, the Sarasota Democratic Party backs this amendment on the hope more—really any—Democrats will be elected. But registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in only one commission district today, and not by much.

Put it this way. Under the current system, District 1 Commissioner Mike Moran must run for re-election in two years countywide, where 42 percent of voters are Republican and 31 percent are Democrats. With single-member voting, he runs in a smaller district that’s 38-percent Democrat and 37-percent Republican. I can guess which he prefers, but a 1-point partisan disadvantage hardly destroys the incumbent.

Now, if it’s an open-seat, Democrats may gain more. In 2016, Moran lost the District 1 vote by 488 votes to Democrat Fredd Atkins, despite winning countywide by nearly 36,000 votes. That correlates closely to the 455-voter gap between Democrats and Republicans registered there today. With all other things equal, Democrats could claim an advantage and win one spot on the commission.

But that would be it based on math alone. In every other district, Republicans hold a 10-percent edge or greater.

I know both District 2 candidate Ruta Jouniari and District 4 candidate Wesley Beggs, the Democratic nominees this year, favor single-member districts. These candidates know the prohibitive costs and logistical challenges of running countywide. Certainly a smaller district might ease that pain. But it won’t make victory less of an uphill challenge.

For Jouniari, it might help in her battle with Republican candidate Christian Ziegler, but not by much. Republicans in District 2 hold a 10-point advantage, compared to an 11-point edge countywide. Not a huge improvement. For Beggs, who battles incumbent Alan Maio in District 4, a switch to single member districts could prove disastrous. Republicans hold a 15-point lead there. Democrats like to say Maio has no accountability to the District now, but then the incumbent this year won his Republican primary in District 4 with 6,369 votes to party challenger Lourdes Ramirez’s 3353 votes.

Those favoring reform, of course, say outcomes could change when elections focus just on district voters. The Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections claims costs will be reduced by 80 percent. I always scratch my head at that. TV ads in the market will cost the same. There will be less mail costs, sure. But if people believe commissioners now listen only to developer money, why believe that money won’t still be given to candidates and go even further in a smaller district? It’s likely the well-funded candidates will receive the same dollars, and they too will enjoy reduced election costs.

One final note. This analysis works from the districts as they exist today. The decennial redistricting means little outside residency requirements not, but if a Republican-majority commission wanted to erase a Democratic advantage in District 1, it’s easier there than anywhere else. Thanks to growth in South County, Districts 1 and 2 will need to expand in footprint soon. If commissioners get elected by district, the fight over those lines will become a high-stakes battle quickly.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor for SRQ Media Group. 

[Higher Education]  Books, Coffee and Conversation
Donal O'Shea, doshea@ncf.edu

Visit the Jane Bancroft Cook Library on the New College of Florida Campus today and you’ll find what you would have found nearly any day in the last half-century: students tucked away in places all over the library. They are seated at carrels, taking notes, or leaning against stacks, books opened around them. And during finals or senior thesis season, the library is so full at all hours it resembles a dorm.

That is as it should be. Universities are, in a sense, time machines. They are places where the past meets the present, where today’s students take the learning of the past and make it their own. So, it is not surprising that libraries are at the center of every university. They house books and journals and, now, the front ends of databases. Libraries offer students access to the records of the thoughts, conclusions and work of all those who have gone before.

Since its construction 30 years ago, students from New College and the University of South Florida, Sarasota-Manatee have used the Cook library to access not just books, but computers to call up any of the millions of periodicals available.

Libraries, however, do far more than this. In the last decade, the library has been a place where students work with staff and student mentors in the Writing Resource Center or Quantitative Research Center or Language Resource Center to develop their expository, statistical analysis and communication skills.

Students returning to the library this month saw an even more vivid change. Yes, there still are rows and rows of bookcases, offering reference books, literature—and every single New College graduate’s senior thesis project, dating back more than 50 years. But now a coffee shop adorns the southeast corner, and colorful and comfortable seating and gathering places sprawl across the east half of the floor.

The appeal of coffee is, of course, no secret; ask any student or faculty member. You’d expect coffee to draw lots of people to the library, and it does. However, we did not add the coffee or the comfy furniture because Cook Library lacks for visitors.

We did it align the library with another central purpose of the university. Universities like New College of Florida and USF-SM are far more than warehouses of information and ideas. They are places to share and expand on ideas, with the purpose of creating something new.

That requires collaboration. There have always been ways of formal collaboration – from group projects in classes to New College’s keystone feature, the senior thesis, or

USF-SM’s service learning projects, both of which involve partnerships between students and faculty advisors.

Informal collaboration can be just as valuable. That is why the expansion last year of New College’s Heiser Natural Sciences Center last year included spaces where students and faculty could sit together, outside of class, and scribble on whiteboards or just talk.

And now we have a coffee shop in the library. It adds one more way to encourage students to pause, meet, talk and share. The sociologist may have a conversation with the biologist, or the economist with the psychologist. They will understand each other better. They may even develop a better understanding of our world and share it for the common good. And no matter what they do, the coffee smells delicious.

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

[CityBeat]  Don't Pay the Ransom, Change the Date
Diana Hamilton

I almost didn’t see it, a sheet of paper rolled up, stuck between the knob and glass of my front door, a door I do not use. I almost didn’t read it, almost tossed it in the green bin figuring it was another flier offering to paint my house or cut my weeds. Almost didn’t see it, almost tossed it, and once unrolled, wished I had, but I didn’t. Democratic Party Voter Guide 2018. 

How could whoever put it there not have noticed my sign adorned front yard; Gillum, Pratt, Good, Beggs, Nelson, Shapiro. Why offer an obvious Democrat guidance on how to vote? Turns out it was that other sign—VOTE YES to Change the Date—that earned me that rolled up sheet of paper jammed up against my door. It looked kinda like a ransom note. Turned out it kinda was.

Candidate endorsements listed in kindergarten block letters next to giant, blacked in ovals. State amendments, a yes/no mixed bag: the Legacy Trail a ‘yes’, county charter amendments 4 of 5 ‘no position’, and next to last “Change the Date of Election of City Commissioners”—a citizen petition initiative placed on the ballot by me and 4,731 City voters, a majority of signers Democrats—a ‘no.’ 

Was this a trick, some kinda shady underhanded scheme meant to confuse, to kidnap the hearts and minds of Democrats? Yes, and it came straight from the top, from party bosses willing to ransom our principles, and for what?

Why take a position at all ? 

Why go out of the way—no explanation, no discussion, no collegial back and forth, just a no like an impatient parent to a child—to defeat a common sense change that would do nothing more than allow City voters to vote on City matters in November when honestly—you know it’s true—most of us were raised to vote?

Why? Fear. Fear if more of us vote in nonpartisan City elections it will be harder to control how Democrats vote. And that’s a risky outcome party bosses are willing to ransom our principles to prevent.

“The Democratic Party was founded on the promise of an expanded democracy. Democrats believe we must make it easier to vote, not harder.” A promise is a promise, and this one promise—whatever one’s party—the most fundamental promise made to all, must never be broken. Never.

City voters  any party, no party—all of us—are being given a chance this November to think for ourselves, to break free from a broke down, lo turnout, high-buck (100K), odd-year March election cycle to one that can’t help but make our City government more accountable to all of us, not just the few who sometimes vote in March, but to the many who’ve always voted in November. 

Think for yourself. Don’t pay the ransom. Vote Yes! Change the Date.

Diana Hamilton is a former City Commission candidate in Sarasota. 

[On City Politics]  WHY, WHY, WHY Change The Date?
Mollie C. Cardamone

Our city of around 50,000 in a county of around 400,000 people is but a small potato in a big ole pot! Sure makes me wonder WHY those huge countywide organizations like the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, Argus Foundation, Gulfcoast Builders Exchange, the State ACLU and a Realtors PAC, among other business groups, are so interested in promoting changing the city election date from spring to fall? Together they have raised over $108,000 to campaign for such a change. WHY?

They call it a grassroots campaign but they hired signature collectors to get people to sign a petition to get on the ballot. I thought 'grassroots' implied a citizens’ effort.

Again WHY?

If our city is 12.5 percent of the county population, then it can be assumed those orgs may only have a small number of city voters as members... again making me curious about the WHY?

When have we long-time city voters ever heard of those big business organizations being interested in voter turnout? 

ANOTHER WHY? 

The signature collectors didn't reveal to all signers that the petition included a first primary vote in August. That info is important for several reasons. One is many of our city voters are away all or most of the summer and would not be here to meet and hear the candidates or learn the issues.

What is going on? WHY?

Here is what I think. We residents own our city. We live in the city of Sarasota by choice. We pay the extra city taxes to support good urban infrastructure, and a wonderful police department. We enjoy fabulous amenities and we really love having our own local government that is accountable to us… city residents! It is very well known that our residents, the owners, have great influence in our city government. The Coalition of City Neighborhood Associations (CCNA) and Downtown Sarasota Condo Association (DSCA) and other prominent city groups have maintained a lot of power and influence in governmental decisions—as should be. Remember who the owners of our city are! There have been many occasions when business interests have been denied an activity because of the influence of our residents.

Maybe the WHY is a desire to take control of our city as the big business interests have more influence with our county commission.

A more serious concern is a political one. Our city commission is composed of five elected Democrats and the county commission five Republicans. One must consider an attempt to change the dynamics of our elected body may be of great importance to the big business folks.

The city of Sarasota is not really a small potato in a big pot. We do not need to be mashed or fried by interests contrary to our resident-voters!

Please VOTE NO on last item on Nov. 6 ballot.

Mollie C. Cardamone is a former Sarasota Mayor and City Commissioner.  



[SCOOP]  Discover Sarasota Spooks on Tour

All aboard for Discover Sarasota Tours' City Ghost tour! Delight in stories of the supernatural and the shenanigans of our beloved city, from Sarasota's bootlegging and circus days to modern times during our 90 mintues after-hours trolley tour. Come dressed in your Halloween best, as prizes for best costume will given every tour!

Book tickets now! 

Discover Sarasota Tours

[SCOOP]  Parkinson's EXPO Coming to Bradenton Area in 2019

The largest Parkinson’s event in Florida is coming to the Bradenton Area in 2019! 

Neuro Challenge Foundation for Parkinson’s is kicking the EXPO off with an after-hours event on October 22 at the Manatee Technical College. Guests are invited to attend to learn more about the day-long event that focuses on living well with Parkinson’s.  “The Parkinson’s EXPO will be held at the Bradenton Area Convention Center next year on April 13 and we’re thrilled to be working with them,” said Robyn Faucy-Washington, executive director of Neuro Challenge. “They are pulling out all the stops to help us create a smoothly run event for the 1,800 plus people we anticipate will be attending.” 

Similar to the 2018 EXPO, the event will feature top Parkinson’s specialists from around the country as well as hands on activities and live demonstrations. The Kick-off will share highlights from last year’s event and talk about new features for this year’s EXPO. One new feature this year will be the availability of continuing medical education credits and continuing education units for physicians and allied health professionals. “There isn’t any other Parkinson’s event like this in Florida,” said Faucy-Washington. “If you have Parkinson’s or have someone in your family with Parkinson’s, we want you to know how empowering this day will be.” 

 

 
[SCOOP]  Volunteers Needed Now for 2019 Tax Season

More than 500 volunteers are needed to train as volunteers to help low-to-moderate income families receive the benefits they have earned through its VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) Program.

The VITA volunteer is responsible for preparing tax returns for low-to-moderate income individuals. These returns are then checked by a trained quality reviewer for accuracy and then submitted to the IRS. No tax experience is required. Free IRS-Certified training is provided! The Site Coordinator will receive IRS-sponsored training on income tax law for the types of returns that are within scope for the VITA program.

VITA volunteering is a great opportunity to meet new people, improve your skills, and make a big difference in the lives of thousands. VITA volunteers are frequently college students, actively working adults and retired or semi-retired individuals who enjoy the satisfaction of giving back, learning new skills and being able to volunteer while using their past life and work experience to help those in need.

With the help of VITA volunteers last tax season, the United Way Suncoast and its community partners completed over 19,000 returns. This equated over $16.5 million in refunds going back to the community to deserving individuals and families. 

United Way Suncoast

[SCOOP]  Goodwill Names its 2018 Team Member of the Year

In advance of its annual Community Ambassador of the Year Awards Dinner on October 17, Goodwill Manasota has announced Suzanne Ottomanelli – a very special employee who has overcome significant challenges and, thanks to a crucial community partnership, gotten her life and career back on track – as its 2018 Team Member of the Year. Ottomanelli became addicted to cocaine, experiencing two overdoses and an arrest; the death of her sister due to an overdose motivated her to get her life back on track. Thanks to a partnership of Learn to Fish Recovery and Goodwill Manasota, she is continuing her recovery, has enjoyed stable employment and a steady income for the past year, has regained her self-esteem, and reconnected fully with her family and faith. 

“Goodwill has helped me to support my natural skills and talents, and allowed me to reconnect to the things I cared about before drugs took them away,” said Ottomanelli. “Thanks to Learn to Fish Recovery and Goodwill, I have my life back. Goodwill is an amazing company – I hope to work here for a long time.” 

Goodwill

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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