Breaking Down the Ballot Questions

The Detail

BY CATHY ANTUNES SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY OCT 20, 2018

Sarasota’s November ballot contains four Sarasota County Charter Amendments, one Sarasota County Bond Referendum and one City of Sarasota Charter Amendment. That’s in addition to all of the State Constitutional Amendments and candidate races. Here’s a quick guide to the local bond and amendment referenda.

The Legacy Trail extension $65 million bond referendum: The Board of County Commissioners passed a resolution to put the question to taxpayers—are we willing to bond $65 million to Extend the Legacy Trail from just south of Clark Road on up to downtown Sarasota? Bond issues over roughly $20 million must be approved by Sarasota voters. When you consider the other projects that the County has funded without asking us—Orioles spring training, Atlanta Braves Spring training and the Benderson Rowing facility—this project appears worthy. 

Process for Citizen Initiated Petitions for Charter Amendments: The County Charter functions as our local constitution. This BCC-initiated amendment would increase the signatures citizens must gather from roughly 15,000 or 5 percent of registered County voters, to about 30,000 signatures or 10 percent of voters. It would also restrict the time frame for on gathering signatures. Bottom line, the County Commission wants to make it harder for citizens to amend our County Charter. This is an easy “No” vote.

The Beach Road Amendments: Only 20 percent of Sarasota’s coastline is publicly accessible, and the state average for Florida coastal communities is 40 percent. One of these amendments would reverse the County Commission’s decision to “vacate” vehicle access on Beach Road along Sunset beach on Siesta Key. The second Beach Road amendment would take the section of the County Comprehensive Plan which prohibits vacating roads adjacent to waterways and strengthen it by making it part of the County Charter. If you want to protect public beach access and put Beach Road squarely back in the public domain (easements have a way of disappearing over time), vote YES on the Beach Road Amendments. 

Single Member Districts: Proponents see single member districts as a way to bring more accountability to County government. Opponents claim the current system of voting for all five Commissioner is best. I routinely ask audiences I address to raise their hand if they can name all five County Commissioners, and in a room of 100 people I may see 2-3 people raise their hands. If County Commissioners were selected solely by the districts they represent, a lot more people would know their commissioners, and we wouldn’t see rampant disregard of constituent input by the BCC. Collier County—perhaps the most “red” county in Florida—has single-member districts. This is another easy “YES” vote.

Change in Date of Election of City Commissioners: Two PACs have collected over $100,000 (most from business groups) to sell City voters on moving City elections from March and May to August and November. They claim they care about your voting rights. City Commission races aren’t won with signs and money -they benefit from the local focus, which happens in March when everyone is here. I’m voting “NO” on this one—and I’d love to see a change the date amendment which would move County Commission elections to March like the City—away from November when special interest and dark money influence is most potent.

Early voting start on Monday. Vote!

Cathy Antunes is host of The Detail on WSLR.

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