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SRQ DAILY Jul 20, 2019

Saturday Perspectives Edition

Saturday Perspectives Edition

"Sarasota doesn't need spring training to bring visitors here in March. But local businesses sure do need help when our waters are polluted with red tide or flesh eating bacteria."

- Cathy Antunes, The Detail
 

[Argus]  Planning Board Politicking Must End
Christine Robinson, Christine@argusfoundation.org

The City of Sarasota has an identity problem. It’s not the entire city; the problem lies in its appointed city planning board.   

This advisory board has decided it wants to become a second city commission. Ignoring the advice of staff and the advice of the City Attorney’s office, it has decided it will use the comprehensive plan as a reason to dive into anything and everything they can vaguely associate with it. 

This is a problem that is political. With former city commission candidates within its body, including one that was voted out of office, it is easy to understand why this is happening. The feigned offense that anyone would say it out loud doesn’t make it not so.

I watched, with interest, the July 1 meeting of the Sarasota City Commission, where the planning board veered far out of their lane. The majority of the city commission understood the gravity of what was happening right away.  

Commissioner Hagen Brody reasonably expressed his thoughts and concerns at the tone of the conversation at the planning board level. His sage statement was good advice. “I would just encourage you to think about the power you have when you sit in that chair and the restraint you should be showing on some of these issues.”

Instead of taking the issue to heart and reflecting upon the advice, the planning board members responded with dramatic political martyrdom. 

Several publicly announced the tendering of their resignations. It was a Greek tragedy unfolding before our eyes on government television.

Commissioner Willie Shaw then injected some timely wisdom into the discussion. “We are not going to allow our ‘E’ to override our ‘I’ in this situation, our emotions to go over our intelligence. We are not going to allow ourselves to be distracted by the moment and to do something that we will all regret in the days to come.”

The city commission then took no action on the planning board’s recommendation and moved on. It was a respectful and appropriate way to handle a board that was criticizing city processes and responsibilities while ignoring their own.

So what happened at the next planning board meeting nine days later? What reflection did this body have upon the commission comments? What did they do to move away from the political maneuvering?

The answer, unfortunately, is that they doubled down. At the first substantive item on the agenda, a cross-examination of city staff ensued to prove their righteousness. 

Even the planning board chair admitted her sarcasm in her question, which would more appropriately be characterized as a passive-aggressive stab at the city commission, the very body they serve at the pleasure of. Then the planning board chair blamed her inappropriate question, after apologizing for snapping at city staff, on an unexplained PTSD – presumably referring to the July 1 city commission meeting.

The meeting spiraled down from there with another staff cross-examination.  Finally, in board member comments, the supermajority of the planning board members then attacked staff and city commissioners, one even calling them uninformed and another questioning commission leadership.

Enough is enough. This is unfair. It is unfair to applicants, taxpayers, stakeholders and city employees. The planning board needs to take a deep breath and decide if they are going to be respectful volunteer advisors who understand their boundaries and are helpful to address important planning issues, or, are they going to politically drown the process in their self-importance?

I served on the county planning commission for just shy of three years. I understand the time, commitment and the passion that can go into these positions. But that level of commitment must be equally met with a very healthy respect and understanding that you are not an elected commissioner. 

Respect staff, respect the people in front of you, respect taxpayers and voters, and respect the city commission. End the backbiting and lashing out after you were very appropriately put back on course by the city commission.

It is now your job to bend over backwards to exercise restraint, reflect upon your actions, and make this right.  Stop the politically motivated poor treatment of staff and applicants, make a concerted effort to bring back the trust into a board that has lost its way.

Christine Robinson is executive director of The Argus Foundation. 

Photo: July 1 City Commission meeting.

[Gulf Coast]  Reading All Year Long
Mark Pritchett, mpritchett@gulfcoastcf.org

The annual school grades and Florida Standards Assessment scores released this month by the Florida Department of Education put Sarasota County in the state’s top echelon yet again this year. We have been an “A” school district for 16 straight years, since the state began giving grades, and our students scored above average in every category of the FSA last year. In the reading tests specifically, Sarasota County Schools tied for third in the state for percentage of students in grades 3 to 10 who passed.

As a community, we expect this success. But it doesn’t just happen because of that. Our district leadership continually looks for areas in which to improve. Our teachers are as dedicated and innovative as they come.

One of our biggest reading challenges is preventing the “summer slide.” This occurs when students put away their books for the summer and then experience a decline in their reading abilities. It’s especially a problem for children who are reading below grade level in our early grades. Without the right tools and opportunities, many children who aren’t reading at home can lose months of last year’s learning over the summer.

Enter Kids Read. Born of a partnership between philanthropy and the school district, this seven-week summer tutoring program targets students who need extra help to ensure that they don’t suffer summer slide and that they sustain the momentum to stay on grade level when school starts back up in in August. Now in its fourth year, Kids READ has had a 98%‒100% success rate in stemming summer slide for the students who participate. Gulf Coast Community Foundation is grateful to the Keith D. Monda family, Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, and other philanthropists who help make this successful program possible.

Imagine growing from a kindergarten-level reader to the cusp of second-grade level in a matter of weeks. That’s the trajectory a young Venice boy named Dominic is on this summer thanks to Kids READ. And his is not an unusual success story.

This year, seven Kids READ tutors are working directly with 56 students at six partner locations across the county (five Boys & Girls Clubs from North Port to Newtown plus the R.L. Taylor Community Complex in north Sarasota). The teachers reach even more children by filling slots with “back-up” kids who could benefit from some extra help when a scheduled student is absent or off on an enriching field trip.

With stipends paid through Gulf Coast, the highly trained Kids READ teachers meet with their assigned students for 30 minutes of customized one-on-one tutoring four days a week for seven weeks. The teachers also document individual progress and challenges in a detailed folder for each child, which will be given to the incoming student’s new teacher when school starts in the fall. At the Venice Boys & Girls Club, tutor Sarah Hill is working daily with eight children, six of whom (including Dominic) have advanced an entire grade level in just six weeks!

Kids READ is one of several community-based summer-reading programs making a difference for students throughout our community. What sets it apart is decision-making based on real-time school-district data, leveraged investment in exceptionally trained teachers, and documented success developing and sustaining grade-level readers. What dovetails so nicely with reading programs of all stripes is our community’s wonderful commitment to the future of our students and its willingness to invest in them.

Mark S. Pritchett is president and CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation. 

Photo: Florida Department of Education

[The Detail]  Ten Years of Spinning Spring Training
Cathy Antunes, cathycantunes@gmail.com

This month marks the 10th anniversary of Sarasota’s deal with the Baltimore Orioles. In exchange for a $31 million dollar stadium renovation, the Orioles promised to “reinvent spring training.” Their partnership with Sarasota was to include a Cal Ripken Youth Academy at Twin Lakes Park, and the Orioles said they would raise $10 million to fund it. Ten years later, that promise is proven to be meaningless PR spin. The promised Cal Ripken baseball academy never materialized. However, the Orioles are lobbying the Sarasota County Commission for more millions — another $16.5 million taxpayer dollars for stadium repairs in the coming decade. Reinventing corporate welfare, maybe. Reinventing spring training? Not so much.

The 2009 deal inked with the Orioles does little to protect Sarasota taxpayers from endless requests for upgrades. The Orioles’ cite the contract’s requirement that Ed Smith stadium be kept up to “major league standards.” Who decides what that is? In 2018 the County hired a consultant who inspected Ed Smith stadium and the O’s Twin Lakes practice fields. According to the 2018 consultant assessment, $16.5 million are needed over the next 10 years for repairs and improvements. County officials say the County’s General Fund doesn’t have enough extra money to handle these expenses. The “major league standard” contract provision facilitates ongoing Orioles’ requests for more millions so they can keep up with the MLB “Jones.’

Last summer, the County Commission chose to fund these repairs by diverting dollars earmarked for tourism promotion. Local businesses were feeling the squeeze of plummeting visitor numbers due to red tide. This summer it’s flesh-eating bacteria. Nevertheless, the Sarasota County Commission diverted Tourist Development Tax dollars from promotion to stadium repairs, changing the percentage of the TDT dollars for the stadium from 16% to 21%; and reducing the promotional or advertising allocation from 30% to 25%.

Does spring training bring real economic impact? Economist Phil Porter conducted a study of Sarasota’s sales tax receipts when spring training was entirely cancelled due to the 1995 strike and partially cancelled due to the1990 lockout. If spring training were a big economic driver, Sarasota’s economy would suffer when spring training games were cancelled. Instead the opposite happened.

Porter found that during the lockout of 1990 taxable sales appeared to increase in Sarasota County by $993,785.29, and during the strike of 1995 taxable sales in Sarasota County appeared to increase by $3,316,110.79. Both of these increases were statistically insignificant; that is, these increases could have been due to chance. Porter concluded: “Cancelling spring training games appears to increase sales in Sarasota and the more games you cancel the greater the sales increase. However, because the coefficients are insignificant, the most we can say is that there is no evidence that hosting spring training games in any way contributes positively to sales of taxable items in Sarasota.”

Sarasota doesn’t need spring training to bring visitors here in March. But local businesses sure do need help when our waters are polluted with red tide or flesh eating bacteria.

Cathy Antunes is host of The Detail on WSLR. 

Photo: Ed Smith Stadium

[City]  Summer In The City
Tom Barwin, Thomas.Barwin@sarasotagov.com

Even during the summer in the city, Sarasota's Lido Key continues to be one of the most interesting geographies on the Gulf Coast. At its center is the unique, John Ringling inspired, St. Armand's circle. Beautifully landscaped, filled with quality shops, dining establishments and dotted with Ringling sculptures, it is one of America's most unique business districts.

Just a mile away one can transition from the commercial world and enter the world of nature and the deep blue sea. Head north from St. Armand’s Circle and in minutes you will be to City Island and Ken Thompson Park, which has been the longtime home to the Mote Marine Science Laboratory and aquarium.

Founded in 1955, Mote was recruited to City Island by Sarasota's leaders in 1978 and is now one of 130 marine laboratories in the United States. Mote has evolved to become one of America's leading, independent marine laboratories, by combining marine science research, with public education and public outreach. 200,000 visitors per year continue to visit Mote's modest aquarium where over 100 marine species are on display. The Mote science campus employs over 200 including over 30 PhDs and is supported by over 1,000 dedicated volunteers.

As one of America's leading research institutions studying red tide, ocean acidification and coral reef restoration, Mote's presence has benefitted our community and area wildlife in many ways and all one has to do to see examples is to circle back from Motes campus, to Lido Beach.

Lido beach is especially interesting this time of year. Walking north on Lido Beach from the pavilion area one can observe the increasing number of sea turtle nests which have been marked for protection with sticks and orange screening by Mote volunteers. This ongoing effort is helping preserve the loggerhead sea turtle population. The public is supportive of the effort to protect the sea turtle nesting areas as the eggs prepare to hatch each fall as Sarasotans root for the thousands of sea turtle hatchlings to return to the Gulf and survive.

Even more interesting are the sea bird nesting areas on Lido that are cordoned off by Mote and the Audubon Society volunteers to protect the sea bird nesting areas. Lido has one of the largest concentrations of Black Skimmers in the state. This threatened species, with their long wing spans, orange webbed feet, and orange and black bills, miraculously skim the water’s surface, bills open, for food. Between rest and skimming they often put on daring, Blue Angel quality air shows with synchronized, rapid climbs, dives and swoops above the water’s edge, teaching their youth to frolic as they fly. It is a fun, inspiring and fascinating scene. It may be summer in the city but some of Satasota’s best nature shows are now underway, and they remain free to this day.

Tom Barwin is Sarasota City Manager. Email him at Thomas.barwin@sarasotafl.gov. 

Photo: Skimmer and baby.



[SCOOP]  Job Seekers Can Meet and Interview with Over 40 Employers at Job Fair

CareerSource will host a job fair on Wednesday, July 24 between 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the Bayside Community Church, 5800 FL-64, Bradenton, FL 34212. 40+ employers from Manatee and Sarasota counties will be on-site to meet with job seekers, many interviewing and making job offers during the event. All industries are represented as well as positions ranging from entry-level to professional. Positions include Healthcare (RN, LPN, CNA, Med Tech,) Sales, Operations, Housekeeping, Hospitality, CNC Operators, Project Engineers, Food and Beverage, Security, Customer Service, Law Enforcement, Insurance, Travel, Inventory Associates, Financial Services and more! This event is open to the public. Bring several copies of your resume and dress to impress. Booths are still available if you are an employer and want to participate. Contact Jen at jzak@careersourcesc.com

CareerSource Suncoast

[SCOOP]  The Ringling Receives Art Conservation Grant from the Getty Foundation

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art has been awarded a grant of $176,800 from the Getty Foundation as part of its Conserving Canvas initiative. This grant is in support of a major conservation treatment of the museum’s monumental oil on canvas painting, Emperor Justinian by Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant. John Ringling acquired the immense painting from the Mannheimer family in 1929. Once the painting has been conserved, it will be installed in a position of honor in one of The Ringling’s largest and most prominent museum galleries. 

Ringling Museum of Art

[SCOOP]  New York Greenlights LECOM at Elmira

The Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) is another step closer to expanding its presence in the Empire State, thanks to a decision by the New York State Education Department. The state’s Board of Regents on Monday approved LECOM’s request to operate its Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine program in Elmira, N.Y. With this approval, LECOM is on pace to welcome 120 first-year medical students to its newest campus, LECOM at Elmira, in July 2020. During the school’s initial start-up period, LECOM at Elmira is expected to have a direct and indirect economic benefit on the region to the tune of $60.4 million as well as create more than 300 jobs and add $1.7 million in taxes to local communities. 

LECOM

[SCOOP]  Overturf's Floor & Fabric Care Relocates to Larger Space

Overturf’s Floor & Fabric Care recently moved into a 5,000 square foot building on Manatee Ave E to accommodate the high volume of area rug cleaning and high end fabric protector the company performs. The Overturf’s are no stranger to growth. From their humble beginnings as a husband and wife startup in 2008, to 2013 when they moved into their first brick and mortar location, they have seen tremendous growth in the Manatee and Sarasota service areas, especially in the specialty Oriental rug cleaning segment. They’ve added quality jobs to the community and provide ongoing training and growth opportunities to staff. This new location will allow them to do even more volume, lower turn around times and continue to grow. 

Overturf's Floor & Fabric Care

[SCOOP]  SRQ Airport Announces 30th Nonstop Destination

Low-fare carrier, Frontier Airlines announced new, non-stop service from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (SRQ) to Trenton-Mercer Airport (TTN) and an increase in flights to Cleveland and Philadelphia, included in the winter schedule. To celebrate this new, low-cost service, Frontier is offering fares as low as $49*, which are available now at FlyFrontier.com. “We’re excited to grow again in Sarasota with the only non-stop flights to Trenton,” said Daniel Shurz, Senior Vice President of Commercial for Frontier Airlines. “Frontier now has four non-stop destinations from SRQ, including Cincinnati, which was announced last month. We appreciate the overwhelmingly positive response from customers to our service in Sarasota and look forward to continuing our outstanding partnership with the community and airport.” 

SRQ Airport

[KUDOS]  OLLI at Ringling College Receives $1 Million Endowment from The Bernard Osher Foundation

Ringling College of Art and Design announced the receipt of a $1 million endowment grant from The Bernard Osher Foundation to support the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Ringling College. The mission of OLLI at Ringling College is to enrich the lives of mature adults in Sarasota and Manatee counties by providing affordable and outstanding educational and social interaction programs that cover a broad spectrum of topics and are rich in intellectual stimulation, often interactive in scope, and worthy of academic consideration. OLLI at Ringling College is a division of the Ringling College School of Continuing Studies. 

Ringling College

[TODAY]  FESTIVAL: Christmas in July at The Bazaar , July 20, 10am-3pm

Full of demos, deals and surprises going on all day including photo sessions for $15 with Fotofinity, complimentary makeovers by Carol of Mary Kay, live music, free books for kids and free crafts from Music Compound. Santa arrives at noon.

The Bazaar at Apricot and Lime, 821 Apricot Ave., Sarasota.

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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