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SRQ DAILY Apr 11, 2020

Saturday Perspectives Edition

Saturday Perspectives Edition

"Artists experiment, and COVID has given us a chance to experiment with them. Let’s take advantage of it."

- Donal O'Shea, New College of Florida
 

[Under The Hood]  A Wielding of Influence
Jacob Ogles, jacob.ogles@srqme.com

It’s an odd thing to peruse a deposition in a high-profile political court case and see your own name show up — without warning — a half dozen times.

That happened to me this weekend as I perused a deposition transcript from Bob Waechter, a one-time kingmaker in Sarasota County politics. More recently, he became a driving force behind desires to redraw county district lines just a year ahead of the 2020 Census. Imagine my surprise when he cited a column I wrote as an inspiration.

Mind you, I didn’t write a column saying redistricting was a good idea. Indeed, I would eventually write several that said it was a very bad one. He acknowledged as much in his deposition, something only taking place because a narrow majority of county commissioners thought a map Waechter drew and submitted under a fake name was the only realistic way forward in a world where the best course of action was to do nothing.

So what did I say that set off this series of follies? My 2018 column in fact focused on how a switch to single-member districts, while greatly desired by local Democrats, may not prove as bountiful to the party hoped because only one existing district would be competitive for a Democratic candidate.

But apparently that was enough. Or at least the corresponding data was.  Waechter said he actually was moved by a realization that in the eight years since Sarasota officials last drew lines, the registered voter population in each district had become out of whack.

To some degree it doesn’t bother me, I suppose, for someone to read facts presented in my research and reach wildly different conclusions about what’s important. That’s the game with political journalism, after all. I present the information and let voters make their decisions on policy independently, and can’t get upset if a reader reaches different conclusions. My only goal is to leave them informed.

Yet it makes me wince a little to think someone read my column and decided they needed to submit a redistricting proposal the last day it was allowed, using a fake name.  Just like I cringe that a county commissioner, based on the same concerns about population distribution, would pick that proposal out of all public testimony and decide it was a better proposal than any option a high-priced consultant originated on their own (I should note Waechter’s attorney stressed to me the map ultimately approved wasn't the proposal exactly, but one commissioners paid that consultant to tweak into something legally defensible).

Perhaps I should take a moment and marvel at the influence my words can have, even unintentionally. Waechter suggested my voter analysis may have inspired elected officials to action as well.

“I’m sure Jacob Ogles likes to think that I wasn’t the only person to read his article,” Waechter told attorneys.

On that point, I grant he’s absolutely correct.

And since he got that right, maybe I should accept that a wide array of people would also read my article and assume it a call to action. Perhaps many reasonable people, while coming to a different political conclusion than I, would see the data and find a need to spend thousands on a consultant, hold a lengthy roadshow to get people to trust that process, promptly throw out the product of that process, and take up a clearly politically motivated map to use instead.

But I wish officials also read warnings that such a course of action would land Sarasota County in court, spending thousands more  as further details emerge and made a dubious process smell all the worse.

Because frankly, the place county leaders find themselves now shouldn’t surprise anyone at all.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor to SRQ MEDIA. 

Pictured: The data table that caused this mess, showing voter distribution under old district lines circa 2018.

[Higher Education]  Art, Dance, and Music Go Virtual at New College
Donal O'Shea, doshea@ncf.edu

Sarasotans love the arts. So, too, do Novo Collegians. With COVID-19 having temporarily shuttered of our city’s theatres, museums and concert halls, we still crave the experience of attending live performances.

Since we can’t attend in person, let’s try attending virtually in real time.

A week from today, on Saturday, April 18 at 4 pm, New College students and dancers from Sarasota Contemporary Dance will participate in a virtual National Water Dance performance. Across the country, participants will live-stream their dance on social media as part of a nationwide effort to draw attention to and action on water issues. This year’s event is focuses on the climate crisis. In this time of COVID-19 and social distancing, the dance provides a visible opportunity for participants to create a community that reaches out for change.

New College’s Art Department will present the Senior Thesis Art Exhibit in an online virtual platform Monday, April 20 through Friday, May 15. The Embodied Mind will be a collection of student paintings that focus on wellbeing, diversity, and community. Our graduating students have created these intensely colorful and thought-provoking works of art that explore topics ranging from mental illness to LGBTQ+ community pride. In past years, we celebrated our art students’ accomplishments at a reception in our Isermann Gallery. This year we will honor them through this virtual exhibit.

New Music New College is planning to live-stream the JACK Quartet concert (originally scheduled for last Saturday in the Mildred Sainer Pavilion) at a future date. Named the 2018 Ensemble of the Year by Musical America, the quartet will perform Sky Macklay’s Many Many Cadences, Jason Eckhardt’s Testify (a world premiere), and Helmut Lachenmann’s String Quartet no. 3 “Grido”. Please check the NMNC website and Facebook page for more details. In the meantime, there are more than 85 videos of earlier NMNC performances on YouTube.

You can approach these performances in two different ways. One rues the lost ambiance that would have come from physically gathering to watch an event, another views yourself as experimenting with the artists in a physically distanced gathering. I vote for the second, citing New Music New College founder, Prof Steve Miles, who has argued for years that artistic performance draws essentially on audience engagement. Artists experiment, and COVID has given us a chance to experiment with them. Let’s take advantage of it.

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

A painting by student Samantha Zellner, Confidence, Each Time We Face Our Fear, We Gain Strength, Courage and Confidence in the Doing, will be in the art exhibition.

[On Politics]  I Needed That Laugh
Frank Patti

As our country struggles with the coronavirus pandemic, laughs don’t come easy these days.  Then I read a recent letter in this publication by Democrat activist Gabriel Hament and could barely contain myself.  The author spends most of his blithering diatribe complaining about traffic during the Vice President’s visit to the region in February (it’s now April) and how it caused a couple hours of congestion including the delay of the performance Les Miserables.  Aw, poor baby. Must have been traumatizing. 

Mr. Hament is not just a “Sarasota native” as his letter deceptively indicates, but in truth is a Democratic political consultant who has worked for Democrat state Rep. Margaret Good.  Ahh, now it makes sense. [Editor's note: Hament made clear he volunteered for Good and held no paid position]

The same Margaret Good who also criticized the Vice President and is now challenging Congressman Vern Buchanan, who incidentally was just named Sarasota’s top elected official by the public in SRQ Magazine. 

The same Margaret Good who was recently blasted by the press as “reprehensible” for “literally trying to raise money off the coronavirus scare.”

The same Margaret Good who was caught violating state election law and, after being called by the press immediately scrubbed her social media in a sleazy and unsuccessful attempt to conceal the evidence. (note to Ms. Good: as a lawyer at Matthews Eastmoore you should know the cover-up is worse than the crime) Will she still have a license to practice law after this campaign? Will the law firm she works for be investigated?

Margaret Good is trailing badly in the polls (20 points) against Buchanan, but that doesn’t give her the right to violate the law or exploit the coronavirus in an unseemly money grab. 

Ms. Good and her goofy sidekick Gabriel Hament are the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. Thanks for the laugh and keep up the good work. 

Frank Patti is a Sarasota resident and secretary of the Republican Party of Sarasota. 

Image: Margaret Good with Gabriel Hament.



[Florida Economic Opportunity]  The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Announces HUD Providing $633 Million in New Disaster Mitigation Program

Today, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) announced that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has approved the state of Florida’s action plan for the $633 million in first-of-its-kind federal funding for disaster mitigation. DEO is prepared to launch new Rebuild Florida mitigation programs over the next few months. The funds are allocated through HUD’s newly created Community Development Block Grant – Mitigation (CDBG-MIT) program formed in response to the 2016 to 2017 presidentially declared disasters. Through Rebuild Florida, local governments and municipalities will have access to the resources necessary to bolster their community’s resiliency to future disasters.

“Under Governor DeSantis’ leadership, our agency has designed mitigation programs that will increase the resiliency of Florida’s communities,” said Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Ken Lawson. “Through Rebuild Florida’s newly created mitigation programs, municipalities will be better equipped to make their communities stronger and more resilient to future storms.”

Over the next few months, DEO will be launching the following Rebuild Florida mitigation programs designed to increase the resiliency of the state of Florida:

Rebuild Florida Critical Facility Hardening Program (Application opens – April 15) – This program will allow units of general local government (UGLG) and state agencies to harden critical buildings that serve a public safety purpose for local communities.

Rebuild Florida Mitigation General Planning Program (Application opens May 15) – To support local, regional and statewide mitigation planning efforts.

Rebuild Florida Mitigation General Infrastructure Program (Application opens June 15) – This program will fund large scale and high impact local, multijurisdictional and regional investments that include: upgrading of water, sewer, solid waste, communications, energy, transportation, health and medical and other public infrastructure projects that will reduce hazard risks.

According to the guidelines set by the Federal Register, at least 50 percent of the funds must be spent in HUD-designated Most Impacted and Distressed (MID) areas, with the remaining funds spent in state-designated MID areas. This federal grant program requires that funding also be used to benefit low-to-moderate income (LMI) communities, with 50 percent of the grant expended in six years and 100 percent of the funds spent in 12 years. In total, 51 Florida counties are eligible to receive CDBG-MIT funding. 

More info.

[Public Health]  Citywide Public Health Emergency Extended Through April 17

The City of Sarasota has extended its declaration of a local citywide public health emergency through at least April 17 following a weekly review, as required by the City Charter, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The emergency order issued by City Manager Tom Barwin, in consultation with Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch, also very strongly urges citizens to wear protective masks in public. It follows the statewide“Safer at Home” executive order from Gov. Ron DeSantis that is in effect through April 30, under which all citizens in Florida are to remain in their homes except to conduct essential activities or seek essential services. Social gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited on public and private property in the City of Sarasota. Those who must leave their homes are urged to adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for social distancing.  Although City buildings are closed to the public, most City operations and services are still available. The public can conduct City business either online via www.SarasotaFL.gov or by phone at 941-263-6000. 

[Traffic]  Educational Videos Showing How to Navigate New U.S. 41 Roundabouts

The City of Sarasota is sharing a series of informational videos to help educate motorists on how to navigate the new multi-lane roundabouts on U.S. 41 at 10th and 14th streets ahead of their planned opening next weekend. The videos, produced in conjunction with engineering firm Kimley-Horn and Associates, can be viewed online on the City’s website. The series of videos includes:

— A simulated driver’s view of the two roundabouts
— Understanding the symbols used in roundabout pavement markings and street signs
— 10th Street roundabout lane and route guide
— 14th Street roundabout lane and route guide

“Roundabouts offer many improvements over traditional signalized intersections, including enhanced safety for both motorists and pedestrians and better traffic flow. But drivers are sometimes unsure how to navigate them, especially multi-lane roundabouts like the two at 10th and 14th streets,” said City Engineer Alex DavisShaw. “We’ve created these educational, easy-to-follow videos, and while so many of us are spending extra time at home, we hope residents will take this opportunity to watch and familiarize themselves with the new roundabouts before they have a chance to experience them in person.”

The roundabouts are being constructed by the Florida Department of Transportation. Traffic shifts are expected to occur next weekend, with travel lanes at U.S. 41 and 10th Street changing to a two-lane roundabout configuration by Friday, April 17, and at U.S. 41 and 14th Street by Sunday, April 19. High-intensity activated crosswalk (HAWK) pedestrian crossing systems will also be activated and are included in the simulated driver’s view instructional video. 

For more info.

[Real Estate]  Crabtree Named as Five Star Real Estate Agent for 13th Year

Michelle Crabtree of Premier Sotheby’s International Realty, has been selected as a 2020 Five Star Real Estate Agent. This is the 13th year that she has been a winner for providing exceptional service and overall satisfaction by clients, peers and industry experts, a distinction only held by the top 6% of Realtors. Selection was determined by an independent research firm in partnership with Sarasota Magazine to determine which real estate agents in the Sarasota area, rated the highest in key criteria, such as integrity, communication and customer service. Less than seven percent of licensed agents in the Sarasota are listed as Five Star Real Estate Agents. Crabtree is a third generation Sarasotan and has been a licensed Florida Real Estate Broker Associate for over 30 years. She on the board of directors for the Realtor Association of Sarasota ad Manatee, is a graduate of the 2014 Florida Realtors Leadership Academy. In 2013, she was awarded the Meritorious Service winner by the Sarasota Association of Realtors and Entrepreneur of the Year Award by the Sarasota Chapter of the Women’s Council of Realtors. Crabtree also has the designations/certifications of CLHMS – Certified Luxury Homes Marketing Specialist, CRS-Certified Sales Professional, CIPS-Certified International Property Specialist, GRI -Graduate Realtor, SRS-Seller Representative Specialist, ABR- Accredited Buyer Representative; PMN-Performance Management Network, RSPS-Resort and Second-Home Property Specialist and AHWD-At Home with Diversity and GREEN. 

For more info.

[Giving Back]  Tammy's Alterations & Dry Cleaning donates masks to All Faiths Food Bank

To help employees at All Faiths Food Bank who are hard at work ensuring community members in need are fed in the face of the coronovirus crisis, team members from Tammy's Alterations & Dry Cleaning made and donated 50 cloth masks for Food Bank staffers - including (l-r) Rachel Bradley, Kristina Richardson, Elaina Hammond and Allison Craigie - to wear while working at the office. With social distancing recommendations and, now, the stay-at-home order, the Food Bank has not had access to its significant volunteer corps to assist in food sorting, packing and other tasks. At this time, employees at all levels are filling significant gaps in mission-critical operations, such as food sorting, packing, boxing and distribution, in addition to performing their regular job responsibilities. As some of these duties require staff members to be in the general vicinity of one another, the masks are helpful in protecting their health. “We really wanted to do something for all the doctors, nurses and local organizations in need of face masks who are helping those in need in our community,” said owner Tammy Vo on behalf of herself and her staff. Tammy's offers quality, reliable dry cleaning and laundry services as well as a suite of alteration services. The company, which is located at 2300 Bee Ridge Rd., #101 in Sarasota, also offers wedding dress preservation. 

[Restrictions]  Manatee County Commissioners Open County Boat Ramps, Extend Local Curfew Seven Days, Lift Private Property Restrictions

Manatee County Commissioners today voted to open County boat ramps by Monday, April 13 at 3 p.m. The Board also extended a local curfew from 11 pm to 5 am and enacted a new local emergency resolution that reaffirms law enforcement's ability to cite individuals who violate group gathering restrictions in public places. The resolution, however, removes local restrictions on private property which was a part of the action Commissioners took last Friday. It was an action Commissioners took at the recommendation of the Manatee County Policy Group, comprised of county, Sheriff's Office, fire and municipal and police representatives. That group did not want local restrictions to interfere with the ability of Manatee County residents to gather during holiday weekends.

"The curfew has brought the proper amount of attention to the Executive Order and people have listened to what (the County Commission) has to say," said Sheriff Rick Wells. "We are trying to limit the number of people on the roadway at night. We are not trying to restrict their freedoms."

Commissioners urged residents to continue to abide by social distancing guidelines set by the CDC. They voted 4-3 to open boat ramps as a way to restore the business—and for some, the livelihood—of local fishermen out of work, wanting to feed others. Public Safety Director Jacob Saur pointed to federal projections that show the COVID-19 pandemic will peak in Florida over the next two weeks, a critical stretch when people should do all they can to observe social distancing.

"Manatee County residents will have an even greater responsibility to practice personal protective measures such as adhering to CDC guidelines of no more than 10 people in a gathering, and they should remain 6 feet apart from one another," Saur said.

Boat ramps will be open for boaters and their trailers only beginning 3 p.m. on Monday, April 13. Public beaches will remain closed until further notice. Commissioners today also agreed to send a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis asking him to extend state executive orders restricting vacation rentals from April 10 until April 30.

Today was the Commission's first virtual meeting and each Commissioner participated in the meeting by video conference. The meeting can be viewed on www.mymanatee.org/mga and on Manatee Government Access (MGA) Spectrum channel 644, Verizon channel 30 and Comcast channel 20. The supplemental emergency resolution today extends a temporary local curfew and provides local law enforcement agencies the ability to enforce group gathering restrictions on public property, in conjunction with Governor DeSantis' Executive Order 20-91 & 20-92. 

More info.

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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