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SRQ DAILY Nov 9, 2019

Saturday Perspectives Edition

Saturday Perspectives Edition

"For today's generation of college students, Germany has always been one country and the Berlin Wall is a largely forgotten relic of the Cold War that ended before they were born. Not so at New College."

- Donal O'Shea, New College of Florida

[Under The Hood]  Evolution Offers Best Path To Preserve Sarasota
Jacob Ogles, jacob.ogles@srqme.com

In one sense, you can’t blame Sarasota City Commissioners.

With neighbors up in arms, dissent for the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens master plan proposal forced a multi-night public hearing. Yet, the only thing I felt as elected officials voted 3-2 against a visionary but unpopular plan was disappointment. Once again, fear of the unknown left a cultural treasure in Sarasota with an uncertain future. Forces longing to keep Sarasota as it is today cursed it with a destiny lacking in sustainability.

The fate of the Selby plan seemed spelled out before City Commissioners reached the official time for debate. Some commissioners’ propensity to always read a gathering mob as a sign any plan lacks citizen support forecast doom.

“We are now having to pivot and react to what has happened,” Selby Gardens CEO Jennifer Rominiecki tells me. “We were severely disappointed, but at the same time, we are committed to Selby’s future, and the status quo is not an option.”

It sounds like the institution may yet fight. But for now, Selby Gardens will stand exactly as it looks today.

But the irony is those who want Sarasota’s atmosphere kept exactly as it is today increasingly threaten that very character.

I can't help thinking of the Sarasota Orchestra. The valued cultural treasure also presented a future recently that Sarasota soundly rejected. A cultural venue at Payne Park would ensure the symphony stayed in town for a generation. Many prefer the institution remain instead on the Bayfront. But it won’t. Not forever.

And while The Players likely prefer to be left out of this conversation, it’s no wonder when leaders there wanted to open a new Centre for the Performing Arts, they chose growing Lakewood Ranch over Sarasota. It’s easy these days to imagine pitchforks greeting any plan on 4.5 acres of this already perfect municipality.

Yet, it’s easy to imagine a development reviled now being exactly what Sarasotans 10 years from now simply love about the city. The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall once drew ridicule, but when Bayfront planners suggested tearing it down, citizens nearly rioted. Indeed, the entire plan for a waterfront park’s greatest barrier at one point seemed controversy over razing the G. Wiz building, which had gone unused for years.

We won’t know if Sarasotans of the future might eventually have embraced that five-story Sky Garden at Selby or become fan’s of a rooftop restaurant overlooking an expanded venue of greenhouses and activity. Just like we won’t know if future historians would fight to save a Payne Park orchestra venue the way the seek to preserve any sidewalk structure Paul Rudolph may or may not have touched.

But if what Sarasotans love about the city is its rich culture, its green spaces, its music and architecture and theater and artistry, know this inflexibility and intransigence threatens those things.

Venice worked cooperatively with the school district to open a gorgeous stage in that city. The Manatee Players barely a decade ago rallied community support there for a performing arts hall that opened in 2013. Lakewood Ranch just poached a Sarasota acting troupe. North Port, meanwhile, has practically built a new city to support a sports venue for the Atlanta Braves. Sarasota looks less receptive to culture than any of its neighbors.

But I get it. Payne Park’s a treasure too, and nobody likes a five-story parking garage.

It’s hard right now to imagine any plan for the Gardens where a substantial number of residents don’t cry foul. But demanding stillness leads to atrophy, and Sarasota’s identity seems increasingly in decay. A different outcome requires residents realize that to preserve the city’s cultural character means embracing its evolution.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor for SRQ Media Group.


[Higher Education]  Dismantling the Berlin Wall on New College's Campus
Donal O'Shea, doshea@ncf.edu

On Nov. 9, 1989, thirty years ago today, the Berlin Wall came down.

Few of my generation can forget President Ronald Reagan’s standing before the wall in 1987 and exhorting his counterpart in the Soviet Union to destroy the 12-foot-high concrete barrier that divided East and West Germany geographically and ideologically: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

No one thought it would happen in their lifetime.

Two dozen years earlier, President John F. Kennedy had decried the wall that East Germany had erected in Berlin in 1961 to prevent its citizens from emigrating to the west. Updating the proudest boast “civic romanus sum [I am a Roman citizen]” of 1,000 years earlier, he assured a crowd of 450,000 West Germans gathered on the square in Berlin that now bears his name: “Ich bin ein Berliner! [I am a Berliner!]”

For today’s generation of college students, Germany has always been one country and the Berlin Wall is a largely forgotten relic of the Cold War that ended before they were born.

Not so at New College.

In September, art professor Ryan Buyssens helped students and faculty construct an 8’x12’ replica of the Berlin Wall with wooden planks and drywall in Koski Plaza at the center of campus. The chief architect, German professor Lauren Hansen, had the students in her course on the Berlin Wall gather weekly to spray-paint the wall with graphics and messages emblematic of the Cold War era. Students Noah Opalsky and Jay Stewart, with coaching from theatre professor Diego Villada, re-enacted the famous speeches of Reagan and Kennedy in front of the wall earlier this fall.

This past Monday, Nov. 4, students Emma Sunderman and Anna Lynn Winfrey re-enacted in English and German, respectively, East German author Christa Wolf’s complex, almost melancholic speech on Nov. 4, 1989 to 500,000 East Germans gathered in Alexanderplatz, a public square on the other side of the wall in East Berlin.

Yesterday, the students disassembled the wall.

It, too, has become a memory.

But it is one that enabled students to discover for themselves resonances between the slogans and images of the Cold War, and those of today. We are all children of the past and cannot reliably move to a better future without understanding the ideological, economic and religious disputes that continue to divide countries, cultures and people.

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

Photo courtesy New College of Florida

[On Planning]  It’s Time To STOP!
Mollie Cardamone

We founded STOP!, a civic organization, in 2016 with the intention of being active for approximately one year. Our purpose was to focus attention on the inadequacies of the City’s zoning code particularly approval procedures, traffic studies and sidewalk width. STOP! received an overwhelming mandate from the public and remained active until 2019. Despite the fact that STOP!’s steering committee members stepped out of the limelight several months ago, we have continued to be attacked by a handful of individuals who apparently believe they can rewrite history. We felt it was our duty to set the record straight.

To STOP!’s detractors:

1. We are sorry you are still confused about the facts surrounding STOP! It was never a “no growth” organization. You are clearly mistaking us for another organization called “Control Growth Now.”

2. STOP! was primarily focused on educating the citizenry on the obvious pitfalls of the current major project approval process for downtown that prohibited most public hearings. We were always about quality development that would benefit the citizens by providing improved walkability and improved traffic flows while maintaining a cherished quality of life. We were NEVER about trying to control growth or anything else. Kindly review three years of City Commission meeting videos at which we laid out our concerns. The truth is there for all to see.

3. STOP! never addressed taxes or other financial issues relating to new projects downtown other than pointing out to the sitting Commissioners that the City had forgone several hundred thousand dollars in new site plan fees. This has since been rectified by a Zoning Text Amendment, which STOP! drafted and championed. That is something we would put on a poster. As for growth increasing the tax base, let’s not forget that good quality growth produces the same amount of increased tax base as poor quality growth. A well-planned city has a greater chance of seeing its tax base endure.

4. STOP! was led by a very small group of concerned citizens who volunteered their time, talents and resources to research a variety of important local concerns in the hope of providing appropriate solutions amidst a billion dollar building boom. Those activities garnered the support of 18 neighborhood, condo and civic organizations. At maturity, our email list was over 600 names long. Perhaps you are intimidated by the breadth of our support around the City. Please try to get over us!

In summary, we would suggest strongly that these inaccurate and aggressive attacks cease. It is true the STOP! organization has disbanded, but our support base has not disappeared. Many are watching, listening and waiting for a successor organization to engage where STOP! left off.

Mollie Cardamone is a former STOP! Steering Committee Member. 

[SCOOP]  Children First Receives a $1.25M Grant to Amplify Family Strengthening Services

Children First, a four-time designated Head Start Program of Excellence, is the recent recipient of a six-year, $1,251,000 grant from the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation to amplify family strengthening services. This is the largest gift in Children First’s 58-year history, and will support the expansion of the agency’s Families First Institute as well as hire Vocational Family Advocates (VFA’s) to support parents in increasing their employability skills.  

Children First

[SCOOP]  Dr. Idol: Battle of the Bands III

Vote for musician physicians battling for top doc band supporting Ear Research Foundation at Doctor Idol on Saturday, November 16th from 7 to 11pm at White Buffalo Saloon.  WCTQ’s Lulu is emceeing. Celebrity judges include Carrie Seidman; Beneva Fruitville; John Miller; and Jenny Townsend. Physician bands, include: Doc and the Eariginals, Dr. Herbert Silverstein; Nu Jazz, Dr. Melvin Price; Good Lovin’ Doctor, Dr. Robert Koser; Electric Church, Dr. Heitor Okanobo; Dr. The Rear Admirals, Dr. Robert Felman; Cassandra and the Ear-resistibles, Dr. Jack Wazen. Tickets are $50 online www.EarRF.org, by phone (941) 556-4219, or at the door.   

Ear Research Foundation

[SCOOP]  Veterans Day Parade

The City of Sarasota, in conjunction with the Sarasota Patriotic Observance Committee, will host its annual Veterans Day Parade and Ceremony on Monday, November 11. The parade will begin at 10am at Osprey Avenue in downtown Sarasota and will move east to west on Main Street, ending at Gulfstream Avenue. The festivities will culminate in an 11am ceremony at Chaplain J.D. Hamel Park at the corner of Gulfstream Avenue and Main Street, recognizing the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month when the armistice was signed in 1918, ending World War I. This year’s parade theme is “All Gave Some … Some Gave All … We May Not Know Them All … We Owe Them All.” The ceremony will feature guest speaker and retired U.S. Army Col. Michael P. Ryan, who served 10 years as senior Army instructor at Sarasota Military Academy. There will also be a performance by the Sarasota Jazz Club Band. The parade will include the color guards from the Sarasota Police Department, Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office and Sarasota County Fire Department; antique military vehicles; students from Sarasota Military Academy, Booker and Sarasota high schools, Sarasota Academy of the Arts and the Venice Middle School Junior Marines; Boy Scouts of America; Girl Scouts of the USA; and many other veterans groups, community organizations and local dignitaries. 

The City of Sarasota

[SCOOP]  Evaluate Your Medicare Benefits for Free in Venice and North Port

Did you know that Medicare health insurance and drug plans can make changes each year—revising things like cost, coverage, the prescriptions they include, and their list of in-network providers and pharmacies? Medicare can be a daunting subject for most people, and the Open Enrollment Period only runs through December 7, 2019. Experts from the SHINE (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders) are available to provide free, unbiased, one-one-one counseling. SHINE will offer one-on-one Medicare counseling in south Sarasota County on two upcoming dates in November.  Walk-in counseling will be offered at the North Port Public Library on Thursday November 14 from 10am to 3pm. 

Florida SHINE

[SCOOP]  Sarasota Youth Orchestras Celebrate 60 Years of Service to Local Youth

For 60 years, Sarasota Orchestra has sponsored a Youth Orchestra Program (YOP) currently consisting of eight orchestras, comprised of five string orchestras, one wind band and two full orchestras. To commemorate this milestone, Sarasota Youth Orchestras will present an alumni reunion concert on Saturday, December 21. The alumni concert gives returning students an opportunity to mentor current students and reunite with friends and family. More than 10,000 students have been through the Youth Orchestra program since 1959 and have performed or are currently performing with major orchestras across the country, including Sarasota Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, Colorado Symphony, Houston Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the New World Symphony. Graduates credit YOP for their appreciation of music. The Youth Orchestras meet once a week from September through April and present five concerts that are free to the public. Over 300 students are currently enrolled in the program. To ensure all students have access to music instruction and education programs, Sarasota Orchestra awards around $75,000 a year in scholarships for YOP students to participate in SYO, Summer Music Camps, private lessons, and study music in college. The percentage of students who receive YOP tuition scholarships has grown to 60 percent. Students in need also have the opportunity to borrow instruments from the orchestra. 

Sarasota Orchestra

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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