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SRQ DAILY Dec 8, 2018

Saturday Perspectives Edition

Saturday Perspectives Edition

"If this project was being proposed by the most universally beloved organization on earth, it would still be facing strong opposition because it is quite simply the wrong size and scale for that location."

- Gene Kusekoski, Siesta Key Association

[Under The Hood]  What a Difference a District Makes
Jacob Ogles

To the genuine surprise of few, Republican candidates seeking two Sarasota County Commission seats won countywide votes with relative ease. But voters also approved a switch to single-member districts, making this the last time voters throughout the county will vote on each commissioner.

So what can the Nov. 6 election tell us about the future? SRQ’s recent Where The Votes Are analysis looked at results of the vote at the precinct level.

First off, countywide results did County Commissioner Alan Maio won a second term on the board over Democrat Wesley Anne Beggs by almost 16,000 votes or about 8 percent of the vote. Interestingly, new County Commissioner Christian Ziegler beat Democrat Ruta Jouniari by a greater margin, nearly 23,000 votes or more than 11 percent.

But curiously, the closeness of the races flips when you look purely at a district level.

In District 2, Ziegler won by less than 1,200 votes, with 51.5 percent to Jouniari’s 48.5. Meanwhile, Maio beat Beggs in District 4 by more than 3,000 votes, with 53.6 percent to her 46.4 percent.

That means in a single-member district vote, Ziegler would have won narrowly but Maio would enjoy a landslide victory. That’s interesting considering the supposed distaste for Maio’s voting record in his immediate jurisdiction fed much of the argument in favor of moving to district elections at all. It’s of course worth acknowledging nobody campaigned exclusively for district votes this year, so one shouldn't assume these results would hold true had that been the case. But it gives a peak into how different elections could turn out in four years, and the results proved among the most surprising to the humble crowd attending Where The Votes Are this year,

Now thanks to term limits, Maio won’t run again in 2022, so his individual performance matters little in the near future. Ziegler will have the advantage of incumbency should he run again, but he faces a much more divided electorate in District 2 than he faced countywide.

What of the rest of the districts, who go up for vote in 2020? In what may be startling news to Sarasota County Commissioner Mike Moran, both Jouniari and Beggs won in District 1. The best comparison for Moran, an incumbent, may be to look at how Maio did there, which will be more depressing. Maio lost in that district by more than 2,700 votes, or by 7 percent.  That’s almost the percentage Maio won by in District 4.

There’s better news for County Commissioner Nancy Detert in District 3 and for whatever Republican looks to succeed County Commissioner Charles Hines in District 5. Ziegler won both districts by upward of 9,300 votes, and Maio won both by more than 7,900 votes.

Of course, all this assumes voters will vote more by party than by person. The difference between Ziegler’s and Maio’s totals tells us that’s not always going to be true. And for those who support single-member districts, the hope certainly will be that regional needs play a greater role than party allegiance in upcoming elections.

For that, we’ll have to wait a couple years to gauge outcomes.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor for SRQ Media Group. 

[Higher Education]  Need Blind Admissions and Mr. Bloomberg
Donal O'Shea

You might remember the news a few weeks ago that Michael Bloomberg, financial media mogul and former mayor of New York City, gave $1.8 billion dollars to his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University.

We see big numbers bounced around so much now that we barely notice them anymore, but I can assure you 1,800,000,000 is a very big number. If you earn $50,000 a year, it would have taken you 36,000 years to earn that that amount of money (meaning that you would have had had to start 25,000 years before the end of the last ice age, and 18,000 years before there were any humans in North America). According to Forbes magazine, had he thrown in an additional 5 percent, Bloomberg could have cornered the marked on Florida baseball by purchasing both the Tampa Bay Rays and the Miami Marlins.

As much fun as that would have been, it’s clear that he has done something more worthwhile.

As most parents know, the cost of a college education is rising, and families are paying for it by borrowing money. In 2015, college students graduated with $34,000 in debt—up from $20,000 just a decade earlier, according to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. That number has grown since then, and is now estimated at more than $37,000.

And as you’d imagine, students and their families struggle to pay off that kind of debt. The average monthly student loan payment rose from $227 in 2005 to $393 by 2016. In turn, that debt burden means people are less able to buy homes, the Washington Fed has found. And many more students are defaulting on those loans, the National Center for Education Statistics reported last month.

In a New York Times column, Bloomberg said his gift is intended to change all that, to “make admissions at Hopkins forever need-blind.” That’s a common term in admissions, which means the college will not consider the student’s ability to pay the cost of tuition when it decides whom to admit—it will be blind to their need, or lack thereof, and (this is critical) it will provide enough financial aid to meet the demonstrated need of every student who attends. This means those whose families have no financial resources pay nothing and those who are wealthy pay the full tuition and board.

It’s a wonderful idea, but one that is exceedingly difficult for all but the wealthiest colleges and universities. Those that have need-blind admissions policies and that meet full financial need include Amherst College, Caltech, Harvard University, MIT, Pomona, Princeton, Stanford, Swarthmore and the University of Chicago, all of which have endowments in the billions of dollars. (There’s that big number again.) Some that have tried it—including two of our peers in the world of small liberal arts colleges, Haverford and Wesleyan—have reversed course. That’s because most colleges rely on students who can afford to pay more to cover the costs of able students who cannot afford the full tuition. That said, the tuition paid at the nation’s best nonprofit institutions, even by those who receive no financial aid, is less than the actual cost to the institution.

New College is part of Florida’s state university system, and we shouldn’t forget the importance of those state systems. While some states had already created them, the Morrill Act of 1862 created land grant colleges, for the purpose of teaching agriculture and mechanical skills needed by the nation. That democratized education, making it something for the sons and daughters of farmers and tradesmen, and not just the moneyed elite. Over time, those colleges expanded their offerings and became the full-fledged institutions they are today. Together with highly educated immigrants and graduates of America’s elite institutions, the graduates of state institutions built today’s America.

Being part of the state system plays a critical role in allowing New College to charge one of the lowest tuitions in the country—$6,913 a year in 2018-19 for a full-time in-state student. Even at that price, we offer one of the country’s finest educations, with about 80 percent of our students going on to advanced degrees, becoming researchers, educators and leaders.

However, tuition is not the only cost of a college education. At New College, which is residential, room and board costs $9,264 per year, which is more than our tuition. Books and supplies add another $1,500. Adding up those costs comes to about $17,500 a year, which is more than some students and families can afford. About two-thirds of our graduating students who entered as first year students graduate with no debt at all, while the other third graduate with an average of $16,000 in debt. These numbers are why New College ranks in the top 10 schools nationwide for affordability.

One might ask, however, how much would it take for New College to be need blind and meet the full financial need of every student who attends? Put differently, how much would it cost to enable every New College student to graduate with no debt? The answer: about $1.6 million a year. Assuming a annual payout of 4 percent, an endowment gift of $40 million to the New College Foundation would ensure that the college could offer this in perpetuity. Mr. Bloomberg, please feel free to give us a call.

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

[On Planning]  Making Things Much Worse
Gene Kusekoski

As a resident of Siesta Key, I was appalled to read Paul Caragiulo’s recent column, "The Price of Living Somewhere Nice.” This viewpoint from a recent county commissioner shows just how deeply disconnected our officials have become from the citizens who elected them and how little they understand about the vital issues on which they vote.

Mr. Caragiulo states opposition to the Siesta Promenade project is not about the “What” or the “Where” but about the “Who.” He claims that the opposition is directed at Benderson Development as an evil force that is ruining our community. I honestly don’t know how someone who has just recently been an elected leader in Sarasota County could have it so backwards!

The problem with the current Siesta Promenade proposal is EXACTLY about the “What" and the "Where." If this project was being proposed by the most universally beloved organization on earth, it would still be facing strong opposition because it is quite simply the wrong size and scale for that location. Adjacent neighbors who used to have landscaped single-story mobile homes across the street would now be looking up at 40- to 85-foot buildings. Their neighborhood streets that are barely wide enough for two cars to pass would be flooded with hundreds of cars going in and out of the development.

Does this sound like a project that meets the “Compatibility” requirement of a Critical Area Plan? Would Mr. Caragiulo welcome hundreds of additional cars a day into his peaceful little neighborhood? The “What” and the “Where” of the current proposal are just obviously wrong to anyone who looks at it objectively.

I think even the people who are strongly opposing Siesta Promenade would agree that Benderson Development has done some great things for the community, transforming failing plazas and roadside eyesores into vital retail complexes at Landings Plaza and Pelican Plaza, as recent examples. Nathan Benderson Park is a community treasure. Given that legacy, the current Siesta Promenade proposal seems strangely out of character for them. Surely, they know how to make the changes required to turn it from a community problem into a community benefit, but so far, like Mr. Caragiulo, they don’t seem to be really listening to the people who would have to live with it daily.

To date they have made only token adjustments to their oversized plan and invested primarily in trying to convince people it won’t be as bad as everyone knows it will be. Little has been invested in earnestly trying to responsibly adapt the project to be compatible with its location. We all know Benderson can do much better than this.

A Critical Area Plan is the one remaining local process that requires a developer to address the traffic impact of its project. Anyone who lives on, works on or visits Siesta Key knows traffic on Stickney Point Road and on Siesta Key itself is already at dangerously unmanageable levels. The official “Level of Service" on this road is rated ‘D,’ which sadly seems to have become acceptable in the “Better Sarasota” in which Mr. Caragiulo claims we live.

County staff asserts a developer cannot be held responsible for making improvements to a traffic situation that is already bad. We can accept that line of thinking in principle, but that does not mean the county should knowingly allow them to make it much worse! And believe me, adding upwards of 8,300 additional cars a day to those roadways would make conditions much, much worse.

My wife and I have loved spending time on Siesta Key for 40 years. For decades, it was our blissful refuge from all the cares of the world, and we dreamed of making it our home in retirement. We were finally able to realize our dream in 2011. Even in the short period between then and now, conditions on and around Siesta Key have gotten progressively worse to the point where our dream is becoming a nightmare. I’m sorry, Mr. Caragiulo, but for the people who love Siesta Key and have seen what has happened to it over the years, things are about as far from “Better, Much Better” as they could be.

Let’s not make it any worse by putting an oversized, incompatible development at the gateway to such a vital part of the Sarasota community. I can only hope your successor is in better touch with the safety and welfare of the people who elected him and that Benderson Development will come to its senses and bring this project into line with their legacy of community improvement. 

Gene Kusekoski is president of the Siesta Key Association. 


[SCOOP]  New Braves Spring Training Ballpark Named CoolToday Park

The new Spring Training home of the Atlanta Braves has its name:  CoolToday Park.

“As part of our commitment to maintain a lifelong relationship with our community, this partnership with the Braves organization, City of North Port, and Sarasota County will cement our presence and strategy for southern Sarasota County,” said Jaime DiDomenico, President/Owner of CoolToday.  “The Braves have a proven track record of building strong ties to the community they operate in and we look forward to enhancing those ties going forward.  I’m very excited about what the future holds.”
The 20-year agreement includes scoreboard and dugout signage for CoolToday as well as exterior signage and promotional opportunities for additional events held at the facility. “This is a new chapter in Braves history and one that strengthens Florida as our home away from home,” said Mike Plant, President and CEO of Braves Development Company.  “CoolToday and the Braves share deep roots in the state of Florida and we couldn’t imagine a more perfect partner for this facility.”
CoolToday Park is being developed by the Braves in partnership with Sarasota County, the City of North Port and West Villages/Mattamy Homes.  Ground breaking on the facility occurred on October 16, 2017 and the first full Spring Training season will happen in 2020.
[SCOOP]  Deadline Approaching for Non-Profit Board Institute

Gulf Coast Community Foundation is now accepting applications for its Winter 2019 Gulf Coast Board Institute. The online application is available at GulfCoastCF.org, and the deadline to apply is Friday, December 14. Gulf Coast Board Institute is a high-level governance training series for volunteer nonprofit board members. The winter class will consist of four full-day training sessions on consecutive Fridays in February. Training is led by professional consultants who are part of the foundation’s Invest in Incredible nonprofit capacity-building initiative. Topics covered include the fundamentals of nonprofit board governance, financial and legal oversight responsibilities, and how to create a highly functioning and engaged board. 

Gulf Coast will select up to 20 applicants to participate in the Winter 2019 Board Institute. Participants will be chosen through a competitive process with the intent of creating a diverse group of individuals with a variety of experiences. Gulf Coast provides all training and resources at no cost to participants in exchange for their commitment to advocate for good board governance in current and future nonprofit board roles. Applicants must be currently active board members at a nonprofit in the region.
[SOON]  Spread Holiday Cheer at the Bazaar on Apricot and Lime

Join Every Child, Inc. for a Holiday Party at the Bazaar on Apricot and Lime on Saturday, December 15th. Children are invited to decorate a holiday cookies and make holiday cards, as well as receive a Christmas stocking and a new book! Local children’s author Amanda Parrish, author or "Meet Mutzie" will be there, and try your hand with free musical lessons from Music Compound, along with live music from 12:00PM - 3:00PM. The man of the hour, Santa Claus, will be greeting children from 10:00am - 2:00PM, and Nate’s Animal Rescue will have a few friends looking with their fur-ever homes! Adults are welcome to enjoy a complimentary holiday cocktail infused with CBD from Second & Seed from 1:00PM - 3:00PM. Join us for holiday cheer and merry-making! 

[SOON]  An Evening of Operetta is the First in Sarasota Opera's New 2018-19 Recital Series

Just in time for the holidays, Sarasota Opera’s “An Evening of Operetta” will light up the Sarasota Opera House with sparkling musical gems to enchant and delightYou’ll find yourself in the “The Land of Smiles” as opera singers present a showcase of beautiful melodies such as “The Merry Widow Waltz,” “Thine Alone,” “Wanting You,” and “A Toast to Champagne.” Tickets start at just $10 for the performance on Friday, December 14, 2018 at 7:30pm. Drawing from the European tradition of beloved operettas, this recital will feature soprano Hanna Brammer (Micaela in Carmen and Nuri in Tiefland), tenor Ben Gulley (Pedro in Tiefland), and baritone Sean Anderson (Count Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro, Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus) accompanied on the piano by John F. Spencer IV. Sarasota Opera’s Artistic Director Victor DeRenzi has curated this collection of music to provide a perfect way to celebrate the holiday season with family and friends.

Tickets for An Evening of Operetta at the Sarasota Opera House on Friday, December 14, 2018, 7:30pm range from $10 - 45 and can be purchased at sarasotaopera.org and in the Sarasota Opera Box Office at 61 N. Pineapple Avenue, Sarasota, FL 34236. For more information, contact the Box Office at (941) 328-1300. 

[SCOOP]  Volunteer retires from SHINE Program after 21 years of service to Southwest Floridians

For 21 years, Southwest Florida’s seniors have counted on Jo Marshall to help them with their Medicare health insurance issues.  Marshall served those two-plus decades as a volunteer with the SHINE (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders) Program through both the State of Florida’s Department of Elder Affairs (DOEA) and the Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Florida (AAASWFL). 

Marshall provided one-on-one counseling to 450 clients last year, and it was not uncommon for more than 100 people to attend one of her Medicare 101 presentations.  Available reporting data shows that Marshall has counseled 3,541 clients since 2010 and has spent an incredible 2,229 hours assisting those clients. While the numbers speak for themselves, she says it’s the human element that kept her volunteering all these years.

Anne Chansler, the SHINE Statewide Program Director, stated, “Words cannot adequately express how grateful the Department of Elder Affairs is to have had Jo on our team. She has been an advocate of Florida’s Medicare beneficiaries.” Chansler went on to say, “Jo’s willingness to give selflessly to help others speaks to both her strength and quality of her character. She will never be forgotten and will be missed by many in the SHINE Program.” 

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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