Fate Smiles on Siesta Key Visionaries

Under The Hood

Photo courtesy Save Siesta Key

Sometimes what you need to move a policy forward is just a different set of ears.

A year ago, residents of Siesta Key saw a push to incorporate as a city basically killed by a philosophical split in the Sarasota County Legislative Delegation. But a local bill this week passed on a 3-1 vote, the first major step in putting the matter to a vote in November 2024.

So what changed? More than anything, a seemingly unrelated redistricting of Florida’s 160 state legislative districts. The most ardent opponents to incorporation — state Reps. Will Robinson, R-Bradenton, and Tommy Gregory, R-Lakewood Ranch — used to represent portions of Sarasota County. Both easily secured new terms in the state House, but a new map means both of them exclusively serve citizens of Manatee County now.

State Rep. James Buchanan, R-Venice, also voted against an incorporation bill last year, and he voted against it again this year. Of note, he didn’t seem so emphatic against the very existence of cities, where Robinson and Gregory seemed to call into question whether any incorporation effort should be viewed as a de facto tax hike. Still, Buchanan in the delegation said there were fundamental problems with the plan he could not get past, most notably the possibility of incorporating a city that shares an on-island border with the existing Sarasota municipal limits.

But the bill was always championed by the representatives who actually were elected to the Legislature by Siesta Key residents. State Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, and state Rep. Fiona McFarland, R-Sarasota, always maintained that if residents want to vote on incorporation, the state should let them.

Indeed, McFarland worked through the process of showing prepping for incorporation as the Save Siesta Key group charged from step to step. It’s no shock a year later the group was ready to appear in front of the delegation, now with a new make-up.

Of note, among the most enthusiastic supporters of incorporation last year at last year’s delegation vote was state Rep. Michelle Rayner-Goolsby, D-St. Petersburg. She was also cut from the delegation as her sprawling district was contained to Tampa Bay.

But supporters picked up support from state Rep. Mike Grant, R-Port Charlotte and part of Republican leadership in the House. He did ask the group to put a guarantee in legislation that a vote would take place in a high-turnout General Election, and the group complied. Incidentally, the polling done by Save Siesta Key suggests the measure will have no problem passing regardless of when voters cast ballots.

None of this should be read as taking responsibility away from the civic group that toiled fast and furious to get a local bill together, and then did again the following year. Certainly, fate smiled on Siesta Key when new lines created new opportunity.

The question now, though, will be if resistance to incorporation creates any delays in the Legislature. The matter still needs to make it to a floor vote in both the House and Senate, meaning it will come again before lawmakers who cast no votes last year. Still, to paraphrase the Hunger Games, the odds appear to be in favor of the incorporation plan. That means we could be less than two years from the region adding another city to its ranks.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor for SRQ MEDIA.

Photo courtesy Save Siesta Key

« View The Saturday Jan 14, 2023 SRQ Daily Edition
« Back To SRQ Daily Archive

Read More

Trust, Hope and Resiliency

Trust, Hope and Resiliency

Jennifer Vigne | Feb 4, 2023

Heroes Among Us

Heroes Among Us

Mark Pritchett | Jan 28, 2023

Students Set New College's Culture

Students Set New College's Culture

Jacob Ogles | Jan 28, 2023

Professional Experiences Benefit Students, Community

Professional Experiences Benefit Students, Community

Dr. Larry Thompson | Jan 28, 2023