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SRQ DAILY Oct 27, 2018

Saturday Perspectives Edition

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Saturday Perspectives Edition

"The establishment is nervous. Nervous that they will lose power, nervous that the commission will become more accountable to a wider and more diverse electorate, and nervous that their elitist views will no longer dominate the discussion."

- Suzanne Atwell, former Sarasota Mayor

[Under The Hood]  Gruters to Hang Up Chairman's Hat
Jacob Ogles, jacob.ogles@srqme.com

The upcoming election, regardless how it turns out, will mark the end of a political era in Sarasota County. Joe Gruters announced he will not seek another term as chairman of the Republican Party of Sarasota.

Why step away now? Lots of reasons. Gruters two years ago launched his own accounting firm, which now boasts nine employees. He’s raising three small kids at home. This year, he’s juggled a role as party leader, state representative and, thanks to an appointment by President Trump, Amtrak board member. Now he’s the favorite to win a state Senate seat, which will triple the size of his constituency.

Every indication in the world suggests it’s time.

“I loved serving as party chairman,” Gruters says, “but it would be much better for myself and the party to move on now.”

Certainly, this year should serve as reminder how much time goes into keeping the party vital, even in a reliably Republican county. Amid the promise of a national “blue wave,” an impressive slate of Democratic candidates for office filed for nearly every statewide and local office on the ballot. Just to make it more fun, a series of events means every state legislative seat opened up this calendar year, sans the heavily Democratic House District 70.

That allowed Gruters the chance to run for state Senate sooner than expected, but even he faces a tougher race than anyone anticipated. Democrat Faith Babis, who offers the hope of making history as Florida’s first-ever disabled lawmaker, attracted national groups like 90 for 90 to promote her candidacy. At least one noted political prognosticator, MCI Maps’ Matt Isbell, just moved the race out of the ‘Safe GOP” to “Leans GOP.”

Still, the smart money remains on Gruters, not so much because of work done since announcing his candidacy in March as because of the intense party building conducting over 10 years. Gruters notes that in 2008, immediately before he started his chairmanship, Republican presidential candidate John McCain won Sarasota by just 211 votes over Democrat Barack Obama. Four years later, Mitt Romney won the county by more than 15,000. In 2016, President Trump won it by nearly 27,000 and Florida’s electoral votes went to the GOP for the first time in a decade.

More important to Gruters, Republicans beat Democrats in new voter registrations in nine out of 10 years of his chairmanship. The only exception was 2009, his first full year in charge,  and the GOP only trailed Dems by about 50 new voters. In comparison, Obama-mania in 2008 led Democrats that year to net more than 1,500 more new voters than Republicans.

Gruters’ gains for the red team continued in 2017 and all this year, even amid a rapidly anti-Trump national mood. Indeed, if Sarasota does prove immune to and November blue wave, it’s the persistent work of the Republican Party under Gruters’ leadership that built a red bulwark over a decade to defend against harsh political climate changes.

Along the way, Gruters also made Sarasota an early must-stop for presidential hopes, and he gave Trump a Statesman of the Year award in 2012 and 2015. He hopped on the Rick Scott train. Basically, he was MAGA when MAGA wasn’t cool.

Whether Republicans line up to thank Gruters may depend on how candidates do at polls on Nov. 6. As Trump’s approval lifts and red tide finally heads out to sea, Gruters feels optimistic the party will have a good night.

But no matter what, folks in the party should recognize they had a good decade under Gruters’ watch, and owe a great deal of future success to his leadership.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor for SRQ Media Group.  

[Higher Education]  Generation V
Dr. Larry Thompson, lthompso@ringling.edu

I am devoting this column to honoring today’s youth and hopefully will dispel some myths along the way. As president of Ringling College of Art and Design for two decades now, I have seen the labels—such as Generation X, Millennial, and now, Generation Z. I am also familiar with the attributes bestowed upon each of these generations.

The current class of incoming college students represents the new ‘Gen Z’ generation. Born from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, they are the new collegiate kids in town and as a generational whole they comprise 25 percent of the U.S. population. Gen Z, also known as Post-Millennials or the iGeneration, has been raised with a level of technological and digital sophistication unknown (or even imagined) in our society. Many knew how to swipe before they could talk. And Gen Z kids were able to ignore their parents with as many as five screens, sometimes operating simultaneously.

While Gen Z’ers have been criticized for being more connected to their devices than to people, our experience at Ringling College shows that the Gen Z students enrolled at Ringling are engaging with the community through volunteerism at the highest levels ever. They understand that there’s no app for showing up, being present, engaging with people of all ages, and giving of themselves toward the betterment of others. As a whole, people are often surprised to learn that Ringling College students volunteer more than 17,000 hours every year to our community. They are not required to do so; they do it freely and enthusiastically, despite the incredible demands on their time, attention, energy and talents that the curriculum requires.

Why are they so engaged? They have been brought up in a 24-hour news cycle, available on 800 cable channels and all over the Internet. As a result, they have developed a hyperawareness of the world as it exists around them. They have witnessed adversity, disaster, epidemics, atrocities and sorrow across the globe through the unceasing and merciless digital lens. This exposure makes them attentive to and aware of today’s sociopolitical landscape. It could have jaded them; instead, they have grown to genuinely care about the world they live in.

Fulfilling our mission to foster and educate students to be the creative leaders of tomorrow means preparing our students to also be global citizens and ethical practioners. One way we do that is by providing opportunities for students to serve and to become civically engaged. Although Gen Z is already paying attention to social issues, at Ringling, they are acting on that awareness to help the greater Sarasota-Manatee communities as well as the College.

The College, through its volunteer coordinator, Rachel Levey-Baker, works with over 50 community partners in our region to create volunteer paths for students that leverage their skills and passions to make a difference—a difference they can see and that the community can feel. Our Youth Experiencing Arts Program, for example, has students working with many local community schools and organizations to help integrate the arts into teaching of at-risk students to enhance learning and to develop an appreciation of the arts. Year-long arts integration residencies are created by pairing Ringling College student artists with core curriculum teachers to provide hands-on art experiences that help teach reading, writing and science through the arts. Students work with these faculty to create high-impact projects that support, challenge, and engage students in learning.

Ringling has amazingly high volunteerism among its new students. This fall, 80 percent of our 511 incoming new students participated in a volunteer project during their student orientation. We provide the opportunities to engage, and our students overwhelmingly do! Just this week we honored 10 of those students with the Emerging Service Leader Award, which recognizes second-year students who engaged with and served the community throughout their first year at Ringling.  

The service of our students is being recognized beyond the Ringling campus. On Thursday, Oct. 25 we tied for first place for the Florida Campus Compact’s Most Engaged Campus Award and placed second for its Outstanding Community Partnership Award, for our partnership with Alta Vista Elementary School here in Sarasota. Our campus, with its 1,571 students, was in competition with all colleges across Florida, including places like University of Florida, with its thousands of students, and WON. That shows just how engaged with the community our students are.

I am proud and honored to report that Generation Z is showing levels of community engagement, authenticity and volunteerism that not only give me great hope for our future, but also dispel the myth that this generation is one more engaged with technology than with the world. Our students have me convinced that maybe Generation V (for Volunteerism) would be a far more suitable moniker for our latest generation.

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

[On City Politics]  Change the Date represents core Democratic Party principle
Suzanne Atwell

I am a Democrat. The national platform of the Democratic party says this:

“It is a core principle of the Democratic Party to maximize voter participation for all Americans. Our democracy suffers when nearly two thirds of our citizens do not or cannot participate, as in the last midterm elections. Democrats believe we must make it easier to vote, not harder.”

I believe in this core principle and embrace it. This belief is why I am the co-chair of the Change the Date initiative to change the date of the city commission elections to fall to coincide with federal, state and county elections. It will double to triple voter turnout.

As it stands now, only about 20 percent participate in our elections in the spring of odd years. Changing the date of the city elections will make it so 50 to 70 percent of registered voters participate in city commission elections.

I believe in this initiative and so do several on both sides of the political aisle. 

The establishment is nervous. Nervous that they will lose power, nervous that the commission will become more accountable to a wider and more diverse electorate, and nervous that their elitist views will no longer dominate the discussion.

We are not the only ones who are making this progressive change. Bradenton has already made the change to fall elections, North Port has fall elections and Gainesville is in the process of changing their city charter for fall elections.

In Gainesville, similar to efforts here in Sarasota, the business community has teamed with community leaders to lead this effort. Just like Sarasota, the Gainesville effort has been endorsed by ACLU of Florida. In Gainesville, the Democratic Party has wrapped their arms around this effort because it matches the Party core principles exactly. 

There are no legitimate factual arguments against this from the establishment. Giving up control of the canvassing board is the only argument they can cobble together, yet this wasn’t an issue when we put city charter issues on the ballot in November 2012 and the county canvassing board oversaw that election without issue.

Then, there is the argument of November commission races not getting the attention from the electorate on the ballot. First, unlike our opposition, I believe our overall electorate is smart and understands city issues and candidates.

Second, if this initiative, which is the last item on the ballot, is any measure, we won’t have any problem. There have been live forums, countless news articles and columns, TV coverage and lots of social media discussions. We aren’t going to have an attention problem, just like North Port and Bradenton have no problems with attention to their city races.

So finally, in a last desperate effort to come up with some reason, they have resorted to attacking select Change the Date Sarasota partners in a tribalistic manner to justify their position. If you can’t attack the issue, attack the people. Well, at least some of them.

I have confidence in the electorate that they will see through the ad hominem attacks and lack of oppositional substance. Join this rare, bi-partisan, diverse and unified group to increase voter turnout in city elections. Change the Date Sarasota! Vote Yes on the city charter amendment!

Suzanne Atwell is co-chair of Change the Date Sarasota and former Mayor of the City of Sarasota. 

[On Scouting]  The Future is G.I.R.L.-Powered

I’ve seen the future, and it is led by a G.I.R.L.

From the corporate world, I’ve seen the “good-old-boy” network, but as a dad with a daughter who has learned to be a Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, and Leader, I can say without a doubt that the future belongs to G.I.R.L.s because of what they learn in Girl Scouts. From starting entrepreneurs on their famous Girl Scout Cookie Program, to experiencing everything outdoors by camping at Camp Honi Hanta and other places, Girl Scouts provides an amazing program that is a safe place for girls, led by girls.

My daughter, Faith, has been involved since she was small, and I am so happy to see her in an environment where girls can be comfortable with each other, as that is not often found in school and in other organizations and activities, especially through middle school and high school. During this time, I’ve watched my daughter grow, flourish and do some amazing things that include: work with local media through the Media Marvels program; represent the Gulfcoast council at the national convention as a national delegate; and coordinate two projects to benefit the community, resulting in her earning the Girl Scout Silver Award, and ultimately, the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest award in Girl Scouting.

She has truly become a Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, and Leader, and there are many others in the Girl Scout program like her. Watch out world, here come the G.I.R.L.s!

Tim Holliday is a proud Girl Scout dad. 

[On City Politics]  Sarasota, Vote to Change the Date
Roger and Phyllis Barry

We helped circulate the petition to change the date of the city election because we believe it will expand voter participation in the city elections, which has a notorious low turnout when held in the spring. 

We were impressed that this petition to change the date was a bipartisan effort backed both Democrats and Republicans including the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, the local chapter of the NAAP, the Manatee/Sarasota Democratic Black Caucus, the Sarasota Manatee Young Democrats, the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, Argus Foundation and the local building and real estate groups.

High voter participation is a sign of a healthy democracy and leads to a more representative policy being advanced by those elected. We have voted “yes” to change the date.

Roger and Phyllis Barry live in Sarasota. 

[TODAY]  7th Annual Hearing Tech Expo & Clinic

Don't miss the largest hearing health fair in Florida where attendees have the opportunity to try and compare hearing aids from leading manufacturers. Over 50 exhibitors will offer first-hand demonstrations of all major technologies including wireless accessories, cochlear implants, assistive listening devices and new, cutting-edge hearing devices such as breakthrough skin conduction hearing aids and the first implantable hearing aid. Presentations and user panel discussions will demystify the new technological developments to help determine which devices are best suited for your needs. A comprehensive silent auction offers an opportunity to get highly discounted devices as well as super bargains in numerous categories like travel, theater and restaurants as well as a support section for parents and children with hearing loss.  A Spanish language translator will be onsite at the event. Admission and all services provided, including hearing screenings, audiologist consultations and rides to and from the expo, are free. For more information, contact expo@hlas.org or 941-706-4312. 

7th Annual Hearing Tech Expo & Clinic

[TODAY]  Boos at the Bazaar

Saturday, Oct. 27th 10am - 3pm. Boos at The Bazaar! Trick or Treating inside the Bazaar. Free activities include Face Painting, Cookie and Pumpkin Decorating, Halloween coloring books, and Music Compound Musical Craft/Lesson. Live Music Noon-2pm.Grown Ups encouraged to dress up too. You know we will be! 821 Apricot Ave, Sarasota 

[TOMORROW]  Goat Yoga for a Cause at Pineapple Yoga

Join Goat Yoga for a Cause this weekend with Claudia Baeza at Pineapple Yoga Studio from 10:00AM to 11:00AM. Tickets are available online for $35, or at the door for $40.
We will have between 10 and 13 little goats at our studio for a 60 minute fun loving class to support our free yoga programs at the studio. These efforts include yoga teacher training scholarships and supporting free yoga community classes. Your support, along with the generous financial support of the Yoga Project Sarasota, makes these free classes possible at the studio.
What to bring? Yoga mat, Water bottle, towel and sun block.

Remember goats can be silly, so be prepared to laugh out loud - goats do what goats do! 

[SCOOP]  Sarasota's Favorite Barber is Back

Sarasota Opera will open its 11th fall season on October 26th with the return of Gioachino Rossini’s comic opera The Barber of Seville, last seen in 2014. Dr. Bartolo plans to marry his ward Rosina, but she has other plans for her future. Figaro, the barber, comes to the rescue and assists Rosina in sneaking, scheming, and plotting to marry her beloved Lindoro. With a comic plot and Rossini’s most recognizable melodies, The Barber of Seville is one of the most performed operas in the world. Here in Sarasota, the opera was first performed at the Historic Asolo Theater in 1963, and has been a mainstay in the repertoire over the past 60 years. 

Subscriptions for the 2018/2019 Season are available at sarasotaopera.org . Become a 4 or 5 opera subscriber to maximize the best savings on tickets and to secure the best seats. 

Individual tickets start at only $19, and are available at sarasotaopera.org and in the Sarasota Opera Box Office. For more information on the 2018/2019 season, contact the Sarasota Opera Box Office at (941) 328-1300 or visit in person at 61 N. Pineapple Avenue, Sarasota, FL 34236. Ticket prices range from $19 - $139.


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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