Battie, Shaw Describe Different Plans For District 1

Todays News

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING THURSDAY AUG 27, 2020

Sarasota City Commissioner Willie Shaw said he’s worked for years to encourage economic vitality in North Sarasota without dismantling the community there. But Kyle Scott Battie, who is challenging Shaw for his District 1 in November, said preserving the community means ensuring its residents have income and means to thrive in the city as it grows.

With just two candidates on the ballot, the District 1 race was the only one in the city this year without an August primary, and since Shaw faced no opposition last time he ran, it’s been more than nine years since voters in the community weighed in on their district representation. Battie believes they are ready for change. “(Shaw) is stuck in the past and he lives in the past,” Battie said. “We can’t have that type of leadership.”

Shaw, of course, disagrees and points to a list of achievements since his 2011 election to the City Commission. That includes bringing a Sarasota Memorial Hospital facility to the district, the revitalization of the Rosemary District and Myrtle Avenue improvements 20 years in the works. “I find myself in a very good place to be heading into this race as an incumbent, and I think my legacy speaks for itself,” he said.

He’s especially proud of a historical preservation district designation that he says will allow the city to “maintain Newtown as Newtown” as the city grows. He hopes that eases any concerns about gentrification that arise as Ringling College of Art and Design expands and development occurs in areas around the neighborhood. “The relationship between the community and the College has grown tremendously in terms of speaking and talking to each other,” he said. “That has been a most inclusive conversation.”

Battie, however, said other conversations have gone decidedly sideways based on Shaw’s leadership. He notes the decision to vote down a master plan for the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens that included an apprenticeship program for Newtown residents. Shaw voted it down, and notoriously slammed the project as doing too little for Newtown while bringing investment into wealthy regions of the city, and went so far as to question Michael’s On East hiring practices as far as minorities. “When the city shot down that project they basically helped start the process of gentrification of Newtown,” Battie contends.

That’s because the greatest threat to the neighborhoods is the fact there’s not enough homeownership of residents; Battie said estimates he’s seen figures suggesting only 30 percent of residential space in the district is owned by people who live there. Considering the region, boasting proximity to major roadways, the airport and downtown, remains ripe for redevelopment, he sees a risk of investors buying land from remaining residents and displacing the community.

The way to change that isn’t by shooting down inevitable growth but by educating residents on finance and the value of home ownership to encourage investment in the community by those who cherish the land and don’t just look to cash out. If that’s done, the community can see more coffee shops and business open on Martin Luther King, Jr. Way without breaking up neighborhoods surrounding it.

Shaw said he had fought tirelessly to ensure healthy redevelopment occurs, whether through the Newtown Community Redevelopment Agency or through cooperation with the Sarasota Housing Authority to create housing for professionals working at Sarasota Military Academy or Sarasota Academy of the Arts. Everything has helped the city and District 1 in particular make strides forward, and he would like to see that continue.

Photo: Kyle Scott Battie, WIllie Shaw

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