Sarasota Delegation Hears Range of Requests



A promise for better university stature. A need for better roadways connecting Venice and North Port. A shift in how Florida fights red tide.

More than 60 local governments and organizations came before Sarasota County’s Legislative Delegation on Monday, each one with a promise for a better quality of life in the region and most with a request for state dollars in hand.

Karen Holbrook, regional chancellor for University of South Florida, Sarasota-Manatee, spoke to lawmakers about the progress on consolidation with the main Tampa campus, just a few years after the Sarasota campus won independent accreditation. She assured the change would allow more engineering and science programs to thrive in Sarasota, and she called on lawmakers to support the creation of a new technology complex on campus.

Meanwhile, officials with the Metropolitan Planning Organization asked for lawmakers to lobby transportation officials for faster funding of a River Road extension, a long-desired project slated to start in 2021. North Port Chamber of Commerce officials called on a streamlining of the certificate of need process so a hospital could open sooner in the state’s largest city without a hospital of its own.

Michael Crosby, president and CEO of Mote Marine Laboratory, called on lawmakers to support a Florida Red Tide Mitigation and Technology Development Initiative, which he said would bring a “paradigm shift” in the state’s approach to harmful algal blooms. The request came after Visit Sarasota County President Virginia Haley informed lawmakers the region suffered a worse hit to tourism last year than it has felt since immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

State Rep. Wengay Newton, D-St. Petersburg, cautioned all comers that lawmakers in Tallahassee will be fighting over budget funding for projects in each of Florida’s 67 counties. “Everybody is snatching at this $90 billion budget to bring back the appropriations we need,” he said.

But state Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, said most of the issues being discussed at the delegation meeting enjoyed bipartisan support. “We need the unified, strong support of entire delegation, and you know we have it,” he said.

State Rep. Tommy Gregory, R-Sarasota, said the delegation would work as a team in Tallahassee on regional concerns.

State Rep. Margaret Good, R-Sarasota, said the meeting was an important way to educate lawmakers about the value of projects. She said water quality efforts will be at the forefront of all lawmakers’ minds.

Photo by Jacob Ogles

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