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SRQ DAILY Jan 11, 2020

Saturday Perspectives Edition

Saturday Perspectives Edition

"Over the past six years students have been accepted to 16 of the nation's Top 30 law schools."

- Donal O'Shea, New College of Florida

-Join us in voting for your favorites in the annual SRQ Magazine Best of SRQ Local Competition. Voting now open.
[Under The Hood]  Symphony Draws To A Close
Jacob Ogles, jacob.ogles@srqme.com

The final gong just sounded on the Sarasota Orchestra’s time in the city. And while administration appears to want an encore, it appears this symphony will transition into a new movement soon.

“It has become apparent to us that none of the available sites in the City meet our Four Critical Success Factors due to prohibitively long timelines, inadequate acreage, lack of parking or other factors,” Joe McKenna, Sarasota Orchestra president and CEO, wrote to city leaders this week. “The current site options that meet our criteria lie within the County.”

The referenced Factors include timeliness, artistic and educational integrity, philanthropic considerations, and business and economic vitality. While interpretations may differ, it’s not hard to hear in these words another factor, namely fear.

Whatever reasoning existed behind the Sarasota City Commission’s May decision to reject a concert hall plan, the consequence had to ring clear to Orchestra leaders. A plan to move from the Bayfront to Payne Park, which had been discussed with city management and supported by staff, was still doomed for failure. It’s not hard to conclude that even if city administration seems on board and there’s every indication a plan for a new venue will have government’s blessing, a few phone calls to City Commissioners will deliver deadly discord to any vision.

Of course, development fights are nothing new. Not to Sarasota. Not anywhere. All-or-nothing cycles in growth in Florida have left a history of sprawl and poor planning that leaves many citizens fearful their place in paradise can always get paved over. Honestly, the prospect of losing a chunk of a major public park to a permanent venue, no matter how gorgeous or culturally vital, was bound to bring some hysteria.

But one hopes with any elected board there’s the willingness to see beyond the angry mob in the room and the will to plow through the rancor for the sake of a better future.

And of late, it’s not those wicked and greedy developers getting cast as the most frequent villains in Sarasota’s NIMBY dramas. It’s institutions with decades worth of good will built up in the community, none of which seems worth a matinee ticket’s cost should a half dozen people concurrently realize a bold plan may mean their weekend tennis match has to relocate.

I hate recycling a point made so well recently with the dismissal of the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens master plan, but Sarasota’s historic culture depends as much on ensuring its future as preserving its past. But the departure of the Orchestra so readily makes that point it’s hard not to revisit the problem. The most recent development shows that decades-old institutions no longer see a place for themselves in the city proper, and believe they can have brighter futures moving to unincorporated areas.

I don’t know how much political calculus occurs in Orchestra board meetings. But considering the differing level of voter impact for a small neighborhood in a city of less than 60,000 and a county of 420,000, I can assure you it’s much harder to threaten a commissioner at a county dais when it comes to a six-block voter revolt.

The City’s not ready to let go of the Orchestra. The Commission this month called for a workshop to explore options, and City Manager Tom Barwin wrote in a letter to McKenna this indicated a “desire to understand, be helpful and participate.”

But similar overtures since May haven't moved the Orchestra before. It may be time to call fine on this arrangement. Efforts would be better spend salvaging Sarasota’s reputation for welcoming the next institution than undoing this rejection.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor to SRQ Media.


[Higher Education]  Learning The Law at New College
Donal O'Shea, doshea@ncf.edu

New College of Florida welcomed The Honorable Charles T. Canady, Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court, to campus this week to preside over a moot court session that featured two of our students arguing an appeals case regarding early voting sites on Florida college campuses.

Rhys Shanahan, a political science major and one of the founders of New College’s Law Society and Mock Trial Team, represented the plaintiff, while Evan Hunter, a mathematics major and former high school debate team captain, represented the defendant.

They were participating in this hands-on learning experience as part of our Advocacy and Persuasion class, being taught by our General Counsel and pre law advisor David Fugett. After the moot court session, Chief Justice Canady, along with 12th Circuit Court Judges Kimberly Bonner and Charles Williams and Magistrate Laura Hale spoke with Rhys, Evan and other New College students interested in legal careers.

New College has always been proud of the number of scientists that we produce and, because the National Science Foundation collects data on scientists and engineers, we actually know how many. An astonishing 16% of our graduates go on to receive PhDs in science and engineering, the third highest rate in the nation.

We also know that law is a popular career option for New College graduates. Over the past six years students have been accepted to 16 of the nation’s Top 30 law schools. But in contrast to the case of scientists, we don’t actually know precisely how many graduates pursue a legal career. We do know that it is a lot and that some of them are very distinguished.

The recent movie Dark Waters features actor Mark Ruffalo playing New College alumnus Rob Bilott, the lawyer who prevailed in a two decade long legal battle against Dupont over the health risks and environmental damage caused by chemicals used in the manufacture of Teflon and like products. Bilott will speak to graduates and receive an honorary degree from New College at graduation this May. A few years earlier the same honor was conferred on another New College lawyer, Jennifer Granick, who helped create Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society. Granick pioneered the field of internet law, and has fought tirelessly for privacy and civil liberties in an age of ubiquitous surveillance. Currently, she is surveillance and cybersecurity counsel with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology project.

What underlies this success producing scientists and lawyers? There are at least three reasons. We encourage students to think independently and advocate for their ideas– great preparation for law school and the legal profession, as well as the sciences. Students conceive of and carry out at least three independent study projects during their undergraduate education. And to graduate, every student must complete a senior thesis project and defend it in a public baccalaureate exam before a committee of faculty. As New College graduate and Sarasota lawyer Jennifer Maglio told a reporter in 2018: “Ultimately an appellate case is a kind of a baccalaureate. I have to know every fact of every case. They can ask you a question on anything you’ve ever done.”

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

Photo courtesy New College: Evan Hunter, Justice Canady, Rhys Shanhan.

[Meet & Greet]  Meet the New Artistic Director and CEO of the Hermitage Artist Retreat

The public will have two opportunities to meet Andy Sandberg, the new Artistic Director and CEO of the Hermitage Artist Retreat. The first of these two free events is Friday, January 24, 5 pm, at the Hermitage Palm House, 6630 Manasota Key Road in Englewood. The second is Tuesday, January 28, 5 pm, at the Arts & Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, 1226 N Tamiami Trail. Each event features a reception with light refreshments, a short talk by Sandberg at 5:30 pm, which follows with a Q&A. Flutist Claire Chase and Hermitage artist-in-residence will offer a brief performance at each event. Space is limited. Registration for both free events is required at https://HermitageArtistRetreat.org/calendar/


[Construction]  Halfacre Construction Company Completes Newest Group Home at The Haven

Halfacre Construction Company, a Lakewood Ranch-based commercial construction company, recently wrapped up the newest group home at The Haven, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering the lives of those with unique abilities in Sarasota and Manatee Counties. Dubbed Mary Jane’s House, a ribbon-cutting ceremony is being held on Friday, Jan. 31 at 11:30 a.m. to commemorate the completion of the sixth single-family group home on the nonprofit’s campus. The 5,329-square-foot group home features eight bedrooms and nine bathrooms.“The Haven and Halfacre Construction Company came together again to create a first-of-its-kind residential group home,” said Brad Jones, president and CEO of The Haven. “There is simply nothing like Mary Jane’s House in the state and probably the country. It’s completely customized for individuals with disabilities that require the use of a wheelchair and sets the standard for luxury group home living. This is the sixth capital construction project that The Haven has chosen Halfacre Construction Company to lead, and we couldn’t be happier with the results.”  Halfacre Construction Company has partnered with The Haven for more than a decade and has worked with the nonprofit on several projects, including two other single-family homes and its therapeutic amenity, a 1,248-square-foot commercial pool. 

For more.

[Online Expansion]  Elysian Fields Goes Online with Psychic Readers

Elysian Fields just rolled out, without any fan fair, their after-hours Psychic Reader availability. Starting this month, Elysian Fields has Psychic readers available after the store closes.  These readings are done over the phone and marks a new milestone since Ruta and Tony Gillette purchased the business almost 2 years ago. “Expanding our reach beyond Sarasota has been a goal since we purchased the business”, noted Tony.  He added, “Our first major step was rolling out eCom which we did in August 2018 and the next natural step was making our Psychic Readers available to the entire country through after hour readings”. It may sound easy, but the Gillette’s had to get the right partner for its Calendar and online Appointment system.  “We felt we are at a point that we had worked most of the kinks out and were ready to take this next step”, Ruta stated confidently. 

[]  The Bishop Explores the Power of Our Soil

On January 14 head to The Bishop to explore soil’s central role in sustaining humanity during a special screening of Kiss the Ground, a feature-length film from Executive Producers Woody Harrelson and Jason Mraz that looks at the impact of soil. Highlighting this underappreciated but essential resource, the film features interviews with celebrity chefs, ranchers, farmers and top scientists and shows viewers how they can become agents in reversing climate change through the choices they make in how and what to eat. Kiss the Ground also explores how to bring back soil by supporting its biological life — leading to carbon sequestration, water restoration, abundant natural food, restored thriving ecosystems and farmer prosperity.  The screening will include a Q&A session with award-winning Co-Directors Josh and Rebecca Tickell.  

The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature

[]  Sarasota Contemporary Dance “Dance Makers”

The third performance of the current season, "Dance Makers," features new, imaginative dance pieces by nationally acclaimed contemporary choreographers. “SCD is proud of the caliber of choreographers gathered for this performance.” said SCD Artistic director Leymis Bolaños Wilmott. This year’s talented creators of dance include Terrence Henderson, Bliss Kohlmyer, Maria Bauman-Morales, and Adele Myers. January 30–February 2,Thursday -Saturday performance at 7:30pm | Sunday at 2pm at the Jane B. Cook Theatre.  

Sarasota Contemporary Dance

[]  The Ringling Welcomes Yin Mei, Peony Dreams: On the Other Side of Sleep

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art welcomes Yin Mei, Peony Dreams: On the Other Side of Sleep to its Art of Performance series. Created and choreographed by Yin Mei, an artist of the Chinese diaspora who has been part of the New York dance scene since the 1900s, this new dance theater piece for five dancers melds themes from the iconic Chinese literary work The Peony Pavilion and Yin Mei’s own life experience as a teenage government dancer during the Chinese Revolution. Highly visual and referencing a dense collection of letters she wrote to her family over two decades, the work is a dance painting that occupies the space between truth and dreams. The boundary-defying new work of dance-theater will be presented January 17 and 18 at 7:30 pm in the Historic Asolo Theater. 

The Ringling Museum

[]  Sarasota Opera Extends Call for Child Supernumeraries

Sarasota Opera is seeking a number of enthusiastic, outgoing children to volunteer as supernumeraries, or “supers,” the non-singing and non-speaking extras in the following opera productions in its 2020 Winter Festival Season: Puccini’s La bohème, Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love, and Catalani’s La Wally. Age range for the characters is from 7 to 18. Rehearsals will start in mid-January 2020 and the final performance of the winter season is March 22. Parents of interested children, please contact Director of Artistic Administration Greg Trupiano at 941-366-8450 ext. 534, or email info@sarasotaopera.org.  

Sarasota Opera

[]  Sheriff Awards Inaugural Community Impact Award

On January 7th, Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight presented the agency’s first ever Community Partner Award to Mike Quillen, co-owner of Gecko’s Hospitality Group. Quillen became first to receive the Community Partner Award, which was created to recognize a company, organization, or individual for their contributions in support of the sheriff's office's mission and the citizens of Sarasota County. Quillen serves on the sheriff’s advisory board and is credited with working with other local business owners to create the SCSO Charitable Foundation. The goal of the nonprofit is to assist individual employees of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office who are experiencing extraordinary personal or family need. Since its inception a few years ago, the foundation has helped several sheriff’s office members through personal and financial loss, and major medical expenses due to serious illness. 


Sarasota Sheriff

[]  SMART Receives $3,415 Donation from the Living Lord Lutheran Church

Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy, Inc. (SMART) has received an unrestricted gift of $3,415 from the Living Lord Lutheran Church of Lakewood Ranch. “Support like this from the Living Lord Lutheran Church makes such a difference in the lives of the children, adults and veterans who participate in our programs.  Their continued support through the years helps us keep our commitment to changing lives forever.” said Melissa Spillenkothen, Interim Executive Director of SMART. Living Lord is a community of people with varied backgrounds and experiences who are sharing life together. They are a family who supports and encourages each other on a lifelong journey of faith. 

Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy

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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