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SRQ DAILY May 9, 2020

"In spite of the virus, this was a year of incredible achievements for our graduating students."

- Donal O'Shea, New College of Florida

[Under The Hood]  Verdict Could Bring Enduring Consequences for Redistricting
Jacob Ogles, jacob.ogles@srqme.com

A federal judge put to rest any hope of course correction on Sarasota County’s misguided redistricting process ahead of the 2020 elections and U.S. Census. The decision to dismiss the case didn’t come as a total shock — there always seemed the possibility courts could decide Sarasota County Commissioners can do whatever they want with county lines. But the verdict stings not just for the consequences this year but because it clears funny business in the future.

Judge William Jung’s ruling could be summed up in one line on page one: “Race was not the predominant motive for this redistricting.” Those words prompted Republican Party of Sarasota Acting Chair Jack Brill to declare the ruling as proof any “accusation of racism in the redistricting was always spurious.”

It’s important to note, however, that Jung didn’t say racism was not a factor— just that it wasn’t the chief reason for the actions. A closer read of his full ruling shows he also didn’t think the sole reason for redistricting was the one cited by the party and county commissioners ad nauseam, namely the balancing of populations.

Rather, he cited a variety of other motivations at play, ones county commissioners at various points denied were considered. Developer interests. Undermining single-member districts. All won mention from Jung. So did the clearest reason for redrawing the map, incumbent protection.

That’s interesting considering County Commissioner Nancy Detert stated at hearings more than once that it would be illegal for the commission to draw lines to benefit or harm an incumbent. She cited language from a Fair Districts amendment that governed the Florida Legislature when they tried (unsuccessfully) to draw districts that could withstand court scrutiny. It seemed questionable that the amendment would govern county reapportionment, but also surprising Detert would cite the words when activists accused the commission of embarking on the entire enterprise purely for the sake of protecting Republican commissioners from Democratic constituencies created by single-member voting.

But not only did Jung say it was fine for commissioners to redistrict with incumbent protect on their mind, he pointed at evidence that’s what happened.

County commissioners ultimately had a map drawn based on an “anonymous” submission from former Republican Party of Sarasota chairman Bob Waechter. The Newtown activists who challenged the map in court, including Fredd Atkins, a County Commission candidate drawn out of a district in which he already filed, always hoped the judge would see the extraction of Newtown from a Democratic district as an effort to disenfranchise black voters.

I’ve written before about Waechter’s stunning deposition in the case, where he admitted he drew his map with voter registration data instead of population estimates, where he destroyed his hard drive before anyone subpoenaed its contents, and where he said he submitted the map the last day possible using a pseudonym he’d hidden behind before. But he maintained in that deposition race wasn’t his reason for picking on Newtown voters. He was aware, though, that those precincts leaned heavily Democrat.

"There is simply no record evidence that the main driver of this was skin color, rather than simple political gerrymandering and “hardball” partisan incumbent protection,” Jung wrote.

This was gerrymandering. It was incumbent protection. The courts recognize that. It just was also legal.

This should frighten people for what happens in 2020. For when Census data comes out, there will be every reason for County Commissioners to redraw districts again. It seems a rational prediction that Newtown could be kicked out of districts represented by Republicans ahead of every single election cycle. Perhaps being disenfranchised from several elections in row will finally make a case for racial prejudice.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor for SRQ MEDIA.


[Higher Education]  Graduation Yes, Commencement Later
Donal O'Shea, doshea@ncf.edu

Graduations at New College are magical.

This year, alas, we’ve had to postpone the commencement ceremony until December. But we couldn’t be prouder of our graduates.

In spite of the virus, this was a year of incredible achievements for our graduating students.

Two, Jacob Wentz and Grace Hamilton, received Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Awards (and Ben LaFond was selected as an alternate). In January, Wentz will be traveling to Belgium and Hamilton will go to Taiwan. Since 2000, a total of 80 New College students (including Hamilton and Wentz) have received Fulbright scholarships. 

For the first time since independence, New College students were awarded coveted Boren Scholarships. Thesis student Isabella Cibelli DuTerroil and second-year Alana Swartz are this year’s recipients. They will receive funding to study a critical language—Turkish and Japanese, respectively—and work for at least one year in the public service field, in government positions critical to United States national security.

Thesis student Asia Lord was accepted to the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) program, a Japanese government initiative that brings college graduates to the country to teach English. Only about 1,000 applicants are selected from 55 countries annually, and Lord will be heading to Japan in September.

One of our physics students, Matt Mancini, will graduate from New College with two published papers in peer-reviewed science journals, a third paper under review, another manuscript close to completion, and four more in-progress projects for publication. We believe this makes him the first student to graduate from New College with so many research papers in the pipeline. In his hyper-competitive, hyper-rarified field, Ph.D. recipients typically graduate with 2-3 publications. Matt will receive a B.A. with twice as many, and several of the papers are in completely different areas. Matt is heading to Penn State, which has the nation’s top ranked graduate program in material sciences and engineering.

More than three dozen of our 200 graduates also plan to enroll in PhD programs, with an additional seven targeting MD/OD and JD programs.

Our Center for Career Engagement and Opportunity continues to help students secure post-graduate careers by providing individual career coaching and connecting them to networking events. Locally, thesis student Melissa Simmons landed a teaching position with Pinellas County Schools (after attending the CEO’s STEM networking event in February), and Clinton Overton received a loan officer position with Freedom Mortgage (after making job contacts at the CEO’s virtual Reverse Career Fair in March).

Our graduates’ achievements and their support for one another animate the commencement ceremony and make the magic. That’s not going away, and will be in full force in December’s celebration. In the meantime, our students have shone a brilliant light on this upcoming generation and on New College in these sad, strange times. We send them off with pride to lives of ever-greater achievement, and look forward to celebrating together a few months hence.

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

[Home Builder]  Perrone Construction Named Among Best Georgian Colonial Home Builders in the U.S.

Home Builder Digest recently recognized Sarasota’s Perrone Construction as one of the best Georgian Colonial architectural style home builders in the United States. Perrone Construction is one of the area’s very few true custom home builders and has been building Sarasota’s most notable luxury waterfront homes for four decades. Founded in 1980, Perrone Construction has continued the tradition of building the finest bespoke homes in Sarasota with the highest achievable levels of quality and customer service. Home Builder Digest is a national publication and resource that celebrates the best home builders, remodelers and architects in the country. Home Builder Digest publishes ranked lists of the best builders across the U.S. which follow a rigorous evaluation methodology based on more than a dozen criteria. Using licensing information, building permits, review sites, and contractors’ own webpages, their editorial team has built and maintains an expansive database on the work histories and capabilities of the best home builders across America. 

Pictured: Siesta Key Georgian

View the complete list.

[Water Management]  Watering Restrictions Take Effect May 12

City residents will be under lawn watering restrictions beginning Tuesday after the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) issued a water shortage order in response to recent rainfall shortages. The order is effective May 12 through July 1. 

For all water sources except for reclaimed water, the lawn watering restrictions are as follows: Even-numbered addresses may water Thursday and Sunday before 10 am and after 4 pm. Odd-numbered addresses may water Wednesday and Saturday before 10 am and after 4 pm. Common areas may be watered on Tuesday and Friday before 10 am and after 4 pm. Hand watering and micro-irrigation of plants (other than lawns) can be done anytime.

For new lawns and plants, watering can be performed as follows:

On the day of installation, watering is permissible anytime that day.
For the next 30 days, watering can be performed on any day before 10 am and after 4 pm. For the next 30 days, watering can be performed as follows:
Even-numbered addresses on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday before 10 a.m. and after 4 pm. Odd-numbered addresses on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday before 10 am. and after 4 pm. Common areas on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday before 10 am. and after 4 pm.

To help with the water shortage, residents are asked to check their irrigation systems for leaks and eliminate wasteful water use, such as hosing down driveways or other surfaces or allowing water to flow unattended.

There are no specific restrictions on fountains, car washing or pressure washing, but these should be done as efficiently as possible to prevent waste. There are no restrictions on the use of reclaimed water for watering outdoors.

Citizens who do not comply with the watering restrictions could be subject to enforcement, including civil penalties of up to $500 per violation under the City code. 

For more details.

[Safety]  Citywide Public Health Emergency Extended Through May 15

The City of Sarasota has extended its declaration of a local citywide public health emergency through May 15 following a weekly review, as required by the City Charter, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The emergency order issued Friday by City Manager Tom Barwin, in consultation with Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch and City Attorney Robert Fournier, also strongly urges the public to wear protective masks when leaving home, and to acquire protective masks if they have not already. 

For more info.

[Support]  Resident Donates 1,000 Protective Face Shields to City of Sarasota

On behalf of the City of Sarasota, Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch and City Manager Tom Barwin accepted a resident’s personal donation of 1,000 newly fabricated protective face shields to help protect first responders and those on the frontlines battling the COVID-19 pandemic in the Sarasota community.

“This is something I wanted to do,” said resident Carolyn Michel, a professional actor who has called Sarasota home for four decades. “You feel so helpless with what’s going on. I can’t even buy hand sanitizer for myself, but I could do this. It makes sense and it feels effective, especially knowing that the face shields will be put to good use to protect first responders and others who need them.”

The idea for the donation sprouted from a shared familial desire to help others during the public health emergency. Michel’s cousin heard about Table Mountain Innovation, Inc., a medical device manufacturing company in the Denver area, which recently converted its operations to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) with the name brand Emergency Face Shield. Michel’s cousin purchased and donated a large quantity of shields to first responders in her community in Colorado.

Wanting to do something similar for her beloved Sarasota, Michel contacted the company owner and personally placed an order for 1,000 face shields to donate to the City of Sarasota.

Each shield is a solitary piece and slides over the head to provide full ear-to-ear and chin-to-forehead safety protection. The shields can be reused and are spacious enough to wear over a N-95 mask and safety goggles.

“These protective face shields will be given to the dedicated men and women with the Sarasota Police Department and those in public safety working hard on the frontlines to help protect them from this very contagious coronavirus,” said Emergency Manager Todd Kerkering. “Some also may be distributed to those who have direct contact with the most vulnerable in our community, including elder care facilities and agencies that assist the unsheltered.”

Eight large boxes were shipped directly to Michel’s home, where arrangements were made for the City to pick up the donation.

“This is such a generous and unexpected gift for the community,” said Mayor Ahearn-Koch. “PPE is in high demand right now and we are so grateful to Carolyn for this thoughtful donation to help protect those on the frontlines as they help the Sarasota community. Thank you from the entire city.” 

[Temporary Closing]  Art Uptown Gallery Closing Temporarily

Art Uptown Gallery is closing the gallery until further notice to protect the long-term health and safety of our artists and staff, our friends, neighbors, and our community as a whole.  There are several ways to continue to enjoy our art and stay in touch with our dynamic group of artists at this time. New work will continue to be exhibited in our windows at 1367 Main Street. To see even more, you can explore our artists' galleries at artuptown.com, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram. If you have any questions about any of our work or want to purchase a piece, please phone us at 941-955-5409 and leave a message that will be returned. We look forward to seeing you when circumstances improve. Meanwhile, our artists and staff wish you good health.  We would like to invite you to view the work of our featured artists by going to our website at www.artuptown.com to enjoy a short film presentation created by Dan Reeves. Even if you do not have the opportunity to venture out at this time, you can still enjoy viewing the window displays and the work of our featured artists for the month of May.   

See art online.

[Elective Surgeries]  Lakewood Ranch Medical Center Resuming Elective Surgeries

Lakewood Ranch Medical Center has prepared to perform elective surgeries and procedures after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced he is kicking off phase one of the state’s reopening plan, allowing resumption of surgeries beginning last Monday. Andy Guz, CEO at Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, stated, “The hospital is ready to meet the surgical and procedural needs of our patients. We recognize that some individuals may have concerns about coming to the hospital while some COVID-19 cases are still being reported in the state. We are doing everything we can to continue to ensure the health and safety of patients and staff. To give patients greater piece of mind, the hospital implemented additional safety protocols that include: screening temperature checks and health questions being asked at entry points before anyone is allowed to enter the hospital; deep cleaning and disinfection; as well as practicing appropriate social distancing. Our enhanced cleaning and sanitizing protocols also include the use of UV light sterilization, as a further method of disinfection.” The team at Lakewood Ranch Medical Center is working with physician offices to accommodate the scheduling of surgeries and procedures that were postponed due to COVID-19, or that may have recently become a health priority. Patients are encouraged to contact their physician for more information. 

More details.

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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