+ Not all residents against pocket park
I disagree with the misleading headline, “Residents oppose pocket park,” in the Feb. 9 issue.
In the strictest sense, “residents” does mean more than one, so the fact that the president of the Windward Passage condo complex was speaking for some of those residents does meet that standard. But I was at that meeting, and there were also several positive opinions voiced both by a member of that condo and also by many others.
Christine Johnson, president of the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, made the inaugural presentation about the park proposal on behalf of people who had phoned her office, requesting that this idea be explored. She was clear in stating that the input of Siesta Key residents is required before the foundation pursues any such project.
I think it was unfair to portray the outcome of this meeting with a headline suggesting that a significant opposition vote was reached. I would also like to clarify that only one Siesta Key Association board member was quoted as giving board support for the condo owners. The Siesta Key Association is an organization that has acted as a strong advocate for the residents of Siesta Key since its beginning in 1948. The board has not taken a position on the park issue, and it is its intent to gather input from all residents before making decisions.
+ Littering not only a problem on the Key
Jeffrey Weisman’s guest column in the Feb. 9 issue of the Pelican Press was quite lengthy on the topic of litter, not only on the Key, but also in this country.
He suggests more signs, glow-in-the-dark material, stiffer fines and giving citizens the right to report offenses as ways to combat litter. We already have that right to report litterers, but, unfortunately, most people do not take the time to do that.
He also suggests installing report forms on posts and listing the names of the people convicted of littering, as many areas post lists of people convicted of DUI and other offenses. These measures are all well and good.
However, is Weisman aware that if these offenders did not learn how to act better while they were growing up, it is most likely too late to teach them about respect for our world with regard to littering?
And it is true that this is not only a problem on the Key; it is a problem everywhere.
My question to Weisman is, “Who is going to take charge of supervising these anti-littering measures, and who is going to pay for the new signs?” I also hate to see litter, but with all the other problems in Sarasota, we probably have more pressing issues to tackle.
Let’s be more respectful of our surroundings, attempt to take a minute to report evildoers and focus our interests on improving our world.
+ Everyone needs to be a responsible driver
Regarding the recent, alleged DUI manslaughter on Siesta Key: For many years now, members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving have been screaming that law enforcement needs to do whatever it takes to remove drunk drivers from the roads. After the Donna Chen tragedy Jan. 7, the Sheriff’s Office’s official response, as reported in a local newspaper, was, “The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office says the steps suggested by the expert (a criminology professor) included offering suspect Blake Talman a cab, seizing his car keys or tailing him while walking down the beach, fall outside normal law enforcement procedures.” Really?
Every night throughout Sarasota, customers leaving restaurants, nightclubs, and bars are subject to being aggressively profiled, tracked, detained and arrested for a DUI by local law enforcement officers. Question: Does a DUI sting just outside a successful business establishment constitute a normal law enforcement procedure? And do weekly Drum Circle patrons on Siesta Beach realize that while they are walking off the beach afterward to enter their vehicles, they are being observed (spied on) by deputies looking for any signs of impairment? Night-vision equipment is used as well, all for the purpose of arresting drivers for DUI, after they leave the parking lot.
MADD argues that this type of DUI response is not entrapment.
On the day of the Chen tragedy, Sheriff’s deputies not once, but three times confronted two obviously intoxicated men on Siesta Beach who witnesses said were carrying a bottle of whiskey, and apparently the deputies thought it was outside normal procedure even to ask them if they were planning on driving to
their next destination. Did “intent to drive” mean anything at this point?
But have a glass of wine with dinner at a restaurant, enjoy a drink while listening to live music here in Sarasota or attend the Drum Circle at Siesta Beach, and be prepared to drive through a DUI gauntlet.
A very costly pass was given to the manslaughter suspect and his friend. If the deputies had handled the situation differently, it might not have led to a tragic loss.
One local columnist wrote recently that the deputies on Siesta Public Beach can’t predict which drinkers are going to become DUI offenders. Still, deputies had direct contact with Blake Talman three times.
Because of this case, however, pressure from the community and MADD could force the County Commission to ban alcohol altogether on Siesta Beach.
Second, MADD uses cases like this one as a spear to continue to try to coerce the federal government into making it a law that all new vehicles in the United States have passive alcohol interlock devices installed. That means if you have a glass of champagne at a wedding, a beer at a ball game or a glass of wine at a restaurant, you probably will not be able to start your car.
The tragic loss of Donna Chen illustrates why we all need to be responsible behind the wheel. Blake Talman apparently thought it was acceptable to get absolutely hammered at the beach and drive. He’ll be thinking about that decision for a long time.
That is precisely the type of attitude that needs to change, because if the general public doesn’t take responsibility, legislators and law enforcement officers will be more than happy to turn this country into an Orwellian nightmare – i.e., just one huge DUI checkpoint.