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SRQ DAILY Aug 8, 2020

Saturday Perspectives Edition

Saturday Perspectives Edition

"The truth is, how the winners govern in the coming term will be what determines if these changes in our election systems were for the better or worse."

- Jacob Ogles, Contributing Senior Editor of SRQ MEDIA

[Under The Hood]  Time To Test Run Election Reform
Jacob Ogles, jacob.ogles@srqme.com

Two of the most landscape-disrupting measures on the Sarasota ballot in years go for their first true test drive in 10 days. Political observers have already seen some of the consequences of moving Sarasota’s city elections to November and changing to single-member district elections for county commission.

It will be difficult to tell immediately from the outcomes of the Aug. 18 election what impact these changes will have had, though all of us armchair pundits will likely guess, and I predict at least one as-yet-to-be-determined election loser will pin the blame for their loss on an unfair change to the local politic. For me, I’ve always felt campaigns have to work within the rules and boundaries they are given, and by definition the candidates who emerge from this process as winners will be deserved ones.

Granted, I’ve written quite a bit about the unfairness of county commissioners redrawing lines ahead of the census. Commissioner Mike Moran will be the only candidate on the primary ballot who arguably changed the boundaries literally to his advantage. But even in that situation, there’s no guarantees the county commission’s brazen actions will bring a primary win, or that leaving lines where they were in 2018 would have ensured a loss. And the commissioners who changed the lines also must contend with the consequences of their own controversial decision.

Regardless, heading into Aug. 18, every candidate has for months known the electorate they must woo. And there’s bigger, more unexpected challenges on the election trail, most obviously the pandemic, that nobody could foresee. Ask candidates knocking on doors so they can engage voters from 10 feet away with masks on their faces. Or ask campaigns confined to couches and campaigning by webcame because they are unable to risk traditional canvassing.

But what changes have we seen so far as a result of changes mechanics in elections? For candidates running for a downballot City Commission race in Sarasota, there has been as great a competition for headline space as ever. That said, candidate forums conducted on Zoom allowed a greater reach than could be normally expected. Any civic group hosting a local election forum dare not dream of hundreds of unexpected guests showing up in some community room to see candidates snipe into microphones in person.

Incumbent District 2 Commissioner Liz Alpert raised $28,695 for her campaign through the last reporting period. Before the first election in March 2015 she had raised around $22,000. Opponents like Terry Turner and Joe Barbetta raised $33,898 and $25,279 respectively. Those are the best known candidates but who knows how differently voters behave with an election at the bottom of a ballot with School Board members and a hot state House primary attracting voters from a single party. Maybe a candidate like Don Patterson ( who reported $75,000 and counting), Martin Hyde ($33,400) or Jerry Wells ($14,065) will still make the top two and move on to November.

As for the county races, one might expect less money to go to district level races. Moran has raised $50,987, which indeed is less than the roughly $71,000 he raised before the August primary four years ago. GOP primary opponent Mike Hutchinson through July this year raised $8,075.

In a District 5 Republican primary for an open seat, Ron Cutsinger raised $66,311 and Chris Hanks raised $21,480. The test this month may be whether it’s possible to stretch those dollars to be more competitive.

Most likely whoever prevails in each of these contests will have more work ahead in November before they can actually claim victory and take office. The truth is, how the winners govern in the coming term will be what determines if these changes in our election systems were for the better or worse.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor for SRQ Media and the columnist who writes the biweekly column "Under the Hood." 

[Higher Education]  Smaller is Better as New College Reopens
Donal O'Shea, doshea@ncf.edu

Reopening campus in the fall during the COVID-19 pandemic won’t be easy for any of the institutions in the State University System of Florida.

In some ways, New College has a leg up. We’re small. We’re a community. And we’re pretty well-known for being socially responsible.

Lecture halls with hundreds of students packed desk-to-desk may be daily realities for massive universities, but not for us. We have a student population of 700, a student-to-faculty ratio of 7 to 1, and an average class size of 12 students—a makeup unlike any other SUS university.

Since our inception in 1960, we have been designed for individualized learning. That model translates effortlessly to online platforms, as a Zoom meeting with 12 students lends itself to more intimate connections than one with 200 participants.

“When you’re at a small school, the fact that everyone knows each other makes it more personal, whether you’re in a classroom or in an online meeting,” said Provost Barbara Feldman, Ph.D. “We can replicate, in very real ways, the same kind of intimate connection online as we can in person at New College.”

New College plans to offer both in-person and virtual learning options for the fall semester.  Depending on the course of the pandemic in Sarasota-Bradenton, however, in-person classes will be ready to pivot to remote instruction, and back again, as needed. 

This spring, after the campus was evacuated in mid-March, our faculty and staff quickly learned how to shift teaching gears.

No other university in the SUS moved from 100 percent in-person classes to 100 percent virtual classes in a couple of weeks as did New College. Former Director of Educational Technology Services Angie Fairweather crafted an advanced plan to make remote teaching a stimulating reality. Even classes like art, marine biology and biochemistry, which typically might not translate well to a digital format, were creatively reinvented.

“New College has always had a model of learning deeply and allowing students to tunnel off into aspects of topics that excite or interest them. That’s very hard to manage if you have a lot of people in a classroom or online class,” Feldman said. “Keeping a class small allows students to pursue what they’re interested in, and I don’t think that idea has suffered in any great way as we move toward remote learning. We will only get better at this.”

We are confident that Novo Collegians’ social consciousness will translate to behaviors this fall that protect others, such as strict social distancing, frequent hand washing and following safety measures outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We will take care of and trust each other as we move forward; it’s the New College way.

“Our students have a high level of care and concern for one another. I’m really optimistic about our students embracing the social awareness aspect of this whole process,” said Randy Harrell, New College’s interim dean of student affairs. “Over 90 percent of students vote in elections (we even won a national award for it) and that shows their civic engagement. I think we are uniquely positioned at New College to weather this reopening effectively—because of our size, the nature of our students, and our sense of community.”

Those of us at New College spent the spring and summer learning to adapt, evolve and reinvent ourselves. We are up for the challenge this fall.

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

[In This Issue]  Virtually Unstoppable

The Giving Challenge faced its own challenge this year - falling right in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Spoiler alert: The community proved unphased and unstoppable. 

Click here to read the full article from SRQ's Summer 2020 edition.

[COVID-19]  Citywide Public Health Emergency Extended through August 14th

The City of Sarasota has extended its declaration of a local citywide public health emergency through August 14 following a weekly review, as required by the City Charter, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The emergency order was issued Friday by City Manager Tom Barwin, in consultation with Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch and City Attorney Robert Fournier. It also authorizes the code compliance special magistrate to conduct contested code compliance cases in person on Aug. 27 and Sept. 3, with no more than 20 cases scheduled each day. Each Thursday thereafter, the special magistrate may resume the regular meeting schedule.

Face coverings are now required in all indoor and outdoor public spaces in the City limits, whenever proper social distancing cannot be maintained in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. The temporary regulation, which took effect July 1, will be in place for 60 days. 

Click here for more information.

[TODAY]  GRAB BAG: The Exchange Hosts Charity Trunk Show , August 7 – August 8

Regional artist Isabella Adams who’s clientele includes luxury retailers Nieman Marcus, The Atlantis, Ritz Carlton and the Beverly Hills Hotel, to name a few, will be doing her part to help The Exchange, (formally the Woman’s Exchange) get back on their feet after being closed for two months due to Covid-19. For the first time since its inception, Isabella Adams will be selling 1st quality Swarovski crystal gifts and accessories, including signed and numbered pieces from her collection at wholesale prices during this two-day only “Charity” Trunk Show. This two day only charity event will take place at The Exchange on August 7th and 8th. Supplies are limited and will be sold on a first come first serve basis. No orders will be taken. In addition to the “Charity Trunk Show” The Exchange will have a large selection of sterling silver jewelry starting as low as $5.00 per piece. Other local artisan pieces will be available at discounted prices.

The Exchange, 539 S Orange Ave, Sarasota, FL 34236

[TODAY]  SEMINAR: Online: Florida Studio Theatre Presents Suffragist Saturdays: In Conversation with Sonia Fuentes , August 8, 4pm

FST invites you to join us for Suffragist Saturdays, a casual conversation series featuring leading women in our area. Come connect, learn, and celebrate the upcoming 100th anniversary of the women's right to vote as well as the real people who made it all possible. Featured guest: Sonia Fuentes, trailblazing lawyer, Co-Founder of NOW, author of "Eat First, You Don't Know What They'll Give You." Suffragist Saturdays are free to attend, though registration is required. Presented as part of FST's Suffragist Project: Celebrating 100 Years of the Woman’s Right to Vote. Suffragist Saturday with Sonia Fuentes will be held exclusively online. After registering for this virtual event, you will receive an email the day before the event from Florida Studio Theatre containing information about joining the online Zoom event.

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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