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SRQ DAILY Aug 24, 2019

Saturday Perspectives Edition

Saturday Perspectives Edition

"It is clear that the past system, where each Commissioner was elected countywide, has failed us. "

- Susette Bryan, SAFE
 

[Under The Hood]  Entrenchment Through Term Limits
Jacob Ogles, jacob.ogles@srqme.com

The law of unintended consequences promises surprised when major changes get implemented. Florida voters in 1992 knew some pros and cons when they approved term limits in 1992. Yet, the policy in many ways entrenches incumbents in exactly the way advocates sought to prevent.

You can see that in candidate filings for the region. Sarasota-Manatee last year ended up a hotbed of political activity, with nearly every seat in the region opened by retirements, ambitions or other unpredictable departures. We enjoyed hard-fought primaries, general election contests and near-perpetual conversation about the direction of the Sunshine State.

This year? You’d never know freshman lawmakers so recently had to fight for their jobs.

Former state Rep. Jim Boyd’s entry into the District 21 Senate race largely sets the local legislative map. He faces Hillsborough Democrat Amanda Linton for a seat opened up by Senate President Bill Galvano’s retirement. Admittedly, it’s hard to imagine popular Galvano riding into the sunset at this moment but for term limits. But with eight-year restrictions on lawmakers, this race will be one of few in the area where voters at least face a choice.

State Reps. Tommy Gregory, Will Robinson and James Buchanan, Republican lawmakers who all beat Democrats last November, have yet to draw any foe in 2020. State Rep. Wengay Newton, a St. Peterburg Democrat, will face a Republican challenger in Sharon Russ, but that’s the exception not the rule, and his district is deep blue. Rumors run rampant whether Democrat Kelly Kirschner might challenge Republican state Sen. Joe Gruters, but an entry at this point would be pretty late.

The only truly competitive state legislative race, it turns out, won’t have an incumbent. State Rep. Margaret Good, a Democrat representing a district that Donald Trump carried in 2016, ultimately decided to seek higher office (more on that soon).

So why does no incumbent in the region face credible opposition? I would argue it’s because every credible competitor would rather wait for an open seat to come around. With every House seat vacated for sure in eight years or less, why challenge on incumbent?

Don’t read this as a knick on any incumbent or suggestion these people should be fired. But freshman lawmakers are typically as vulnerable as incumbents get, and we have a lot of freshmen facing re-election. Certainly, none of these one-year veterans boast the loyalty or base of, say, a 14-year Congressional incumbent.

Which brings us back to Good. Why isn’t she running as the only incumbent facing a serious challenge? She’d rather take a shot at one of the biggest names in Southwest Florida.

U.S. Rep. Vern “Who-Knows-When-He’ll-Retire” Buchanan will run as chair of the Florida Congressional Delegation, part of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, and a business connected incumbent with his names on several prominent buildings. But for all those strengths, Buchanan will also run in his eighth contested general election.

Yes, Buchanan has always faced a Democratic opponent: Christine Jennings, Keith Fitzgerald, James Golden, Henry Lawrence, Jan Schneider, David Shapiro, and now, Good.

How does he draw such fire? Well, the only way Democrats can take a shot at serving in Congress in by beating Buchanan. The result is someone tries every cycle, with varying results.

That also means whether Buchanan or Good wins, voters will know they have a Congressman who engaged with the community through forums, debates and doorstep conversations come January 2020.

That’s better than being served by an entrenched and untouchable incumbent, which term limits aim to avoid. Somehow, only the office that faces no limit on tenure has proven to be the only one boasting perpetual spirited debate.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor for SRQ Media Group. 

[On County]  Detert, Commissioners Undermining Will of Voters
Susette Bryan

A sampling of recent news clippings indicate that the elected leadership of Sarasota County is failing to address the region’s most pressing challenges.  

For example: (1) Christine Robinson, Executive Director of the Argus Foundation, wrote last week:  “According to the Tampa Bay Partnership 2019 Economic Competiveness report, 14.67% of the population of 16-24 year-olds in Sarasota County are neither employed nor enrolled in school.”  (2) On the heels of an order issued to Sarasota County by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection “...which found numerous violations of water-quality rules linked to spills and discharges,” 36,000 gallons of raw sewage spilled into Siesta Key’s Grand Canal last month. (3) While values of luxury, waterfront homes on the barrier islands are impaired by the effects of infrastructure neglect, those living on “the other side of the train tracks” fall farther and farther behind. 

According to the United Way’s 2019 report of ALICE households (Asset-Limited Income-Constrained), 38% of Sarasota families “...struggle to pay for basic needs such as housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, and technology.”

These startling statistics explain why Sarasota County citizens of all political persuasions voted overwhelmingly—115,896 votes / 59.84%YES vs. 77,767 votes / 40.16% NO—to change the system by which County Commissioners are elected.

It is clear that the past system, where each Commissioner was elected countywide, has failed us. 

Naturally, entrenched incumbents and their financial backers, specifically career politician Nancy Detert (along with Charles Hines, Alan Maio, and Mike Moran), are attempting to stack the deck and rig the 2020 election by gerrymandering Commission districts. 

They have hired a Tallahassee-based consultant, Kurt Spitzer, in a shady, non-competitive bid process, to generate homespun population estimates that would support a pre-2020 Census redraw followed by out-of-the-Sunshine secret planning meetings with each Commissioner to ensure incumbents and their hand-picked successors are protected.

So far, $16,000 has been taken out of our neighborhoods and slipped into the pocket of this out-of-town consultant. Next week, Spitzer is set to receive another $34,000 to do the bidding of Detert and the others.

Please contact the Commissioners at commissioners@scgov.net to express your outrage and then join members and supporters of the Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections (SAFE) at the Aug. 27, 9am Commission meeting to stand up to this flagrant abuse of power and abrogation of fiduciary responsibility!

Susette Bryan is  Secretary of Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections (SAFE). 

[On County]  No Redistricting Until After 2020
Pat Rounds

Sarasota County last November voters sent a clear message to the County Commission—that they want more direct representation and accountability. The Single-Member Districts Amendment won by overwhelming margins in all five County Districts. 

In 2020, voters in odd-numbered Districts expect to cast ballots for Commission candidates who will represent them directly. No one voted to change District boundaries before the 2020 Census, yet our County Commission seems determined to do just that. After the November elections results, Commissioner Detert said ,“We heard the message”. Really?

Initially, Ms. Detert tried to make the case for early redistricting by citing a variance in the number of registered voters across districts. As a former State Senator who served on a State-level redistricting panel after the last Census in 2010, didn’t she recall that population determines District boundaries?

Facing that inconvenient reality didn’t stop the push to redraw boundaries early.  

This Spring, the Commission asked County staff to research the County population by District and to seek the criteria to justify redistricting. County staff cited US Supreme Court criteria defining the population deviation which could warrant redrawing District boundaries. The population forecast was calculated by ESRI Corporation, which has conducted GIS tracking for Sarasota County for years. Ironically an ESRI-generated District/Precinct population map is currently posted on the County Commission web page. Despite learning that staff research results didn’t justify the need to redistrict, our County Commission is moving forward anyway.   

The Commission has now engaged an “outside expert” now using a different population forecast data base, although he has used ESRI Corporation in at least one previous redistricting contract (Jefferson County, 2016).  Why the change in data sources? Are the population input parameters different, or the same as those used by County staff?  Different methods can yield different results.

Voices from across Sarasota County have asked questions or expressed skepticism about this process. They include media outlets, members of various City Commissions, the League of Women Voters of Sarasota County, and county residents.

Commissioner Detert has stated that “…it’s our responsibility and if we do this in the most transparent, fair, common sense way maybe it’s a lesson to everybody. I think we all need to work on restoring the average person’s faith in their own government.”

Early redistricting may also disenfranchise some residents who would have voted in 2020, but who may be moved into County Commission Districts not voting until 2022. And after the 2020 Census, District boundaries will be changed again. Redistricting at any cost is not the way to restore anyone’s faith in their government, but it does confirm that voters were right to call for more direct representation and accountability from the County Commission. 

Pat Rounds is a founding member of Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government. 



[SCOOP]  Screening of Life After Life Documentary on September 19

 

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Life After Life is a film about how it's never too late to explore the unknown. When Sarah, Eneida, and Juanita join a dance outreach program for seniors, they catch the eye of a local choreographer who challenges them to create and perform an original modern dance in one week. The result is a poignant, surprising, and at times hilarious look at aging, ability, and creativity that shows what happens when everybody dances. The Senior Friendship Center is hosting a reception and screening party beginning at 6pm on September 19. Call 941-556-3263 to register for the event. 

Life After Life

[SCOOP]  New College Appoints Dwayne Peterson as Director of Career Center

New College of Florida has appointed Dwayne Peterson to serve as director of its Center for Career Engagement & Opportunity. As CEO Director, he provides strategic leadership for developing, implementing, and evaluating career exploration and education, internships, national fellowships, employment, graduate and professional school preparation, and professional development for New College students. He also serves as the point of contact for employers and graduate and professional programs that wish to recruit talent from New College. 

New College of Florida

[KUDOS]  Goodwill Manasota Earns International Honors for Regional Success

Goodwill Manasota earned significant recognition during the recent Goodwill Industries International summer conference in Spokane, Washington. The organization won the Retail Excellence: Market Leadership by Share of Used Goods Award for the sixth time for having the highest market penetration of its donor market and the Retail Excellence: Market Leadership by Donations Award for the fifth time for capitalizing on the highest proportion of its available used goods market. For the first time, they also won the GILPS Organizational Safety Award, recognizing the organization’s commitment to positively influence safety policies and practices that strengthen its Goodwill.  

Goodwill Manasota

[KUDOS]  Duval's Fresh. Local. Seafood. Appears on the Inc. 5000

Inc.magazine recently announced that Duval’s Fresh. Local. Seafood. in Sarasota has landed on the annual Inc. 5000 list, the most prestigious ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies. The list represents a unique look at the most successful companies within the independent small business segment. Microsoft, Dell, Domino’s Pizza, Pandora, Timberland, LinkedIn, Yelp, Zillow, and many other well-known names gained their first national exposure as honorees on the Inc. 5000. 

Duval's Fresh. Local. Seafood.

[SCOOP]  Funding Available for Seniors in an Energy Crisis

The hottest months of the year are almost behind us, but the electric bills that follow can be devastating for seniors with limited incomes.  Fortunately, older adults with a home energy emergency may be eligible for the Emergency Home Energy Assistance Program (EHEAP). EHEAP assists low-income households with at least one person age 60 or over.  The program is available for those facing a delinquent power bill, lack of fuel, or an electric shut-off notice. Eligible households may be provided one benefit per season: The cooling season runs April-September, and the heating season runs October-March. Payments are made directly to the vendor or by a two-party check to the vendor and client for electricity, natural gas, propane, fuel oil, kerosene, or wood.  Program beneficiaries may also receive vouchers to purchase fans. 

AAASWFL

[SCOOP]  Nonstop Seasonal Service From MSP to SRQ

Sun Country Airlines recently announced nonstop seasonal service from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida (SRQ) with fares as low as $79* one-way. The new nonstop seasonal service to SRQ will operate twice a week on Fridays and Mondays beginning December 20, 2019.  The airline first added new routes beyond its home base of Minneapolis-St. Paul in June 2018 and has grown its network by nearly 65 percent over the past year. In addition, the airline has added to its customer experience with new in-flight entertainment, a mobile-friendly website with more self-service tools and new interiors on each aircraft. Flights are on sale now at suncountry.com.  

SRQ Airport

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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