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Sarasota Thursday, Jun. 5, 2014 3 years ago

Letters to the Editor


+ Facts on proposed charter
Dear Editor:
In response to Eileen Walsh Normile’s May 15 letter regarding the petition for a revised City Charter, it’s clear the word “mayor” holds a different meaning depending on where you’ve lived.

Most people I know have lived in cities where the mayor is strong — not weak — and is elected by the voters. Being elected mayor, running a city and being responsible and held accountable is serious business.
We are not nearly so serious here in Sarasota, where city commissioners take turns being mayor. They vote among themselves and generally take turns for a year. Our mayor has no authority or power to accomplish goals and objectives.

In Sarasota since 1945, that authority has lived in the office of the city manager. It takes three commissioners to hire or fire the city manager. The city manager can hire or fire anyone who works under him, including his deputy or department heads, without any input from the commission. The city manager is not subject to the Sunshine Law and may speak with, advise or lobby individual commissioners at will.
In the past decade, Sarasota commissioners have appointed six city managers. This has resulted in inconsistency and confusion.

Another thing we do in Sarasota is vote in March. The turnout for city voters in March elections is as low as 11% and as high as 21%. Those special March elections cost taxpayers $129,000.

Sarasota has five commissioners. Three are from districts and two are “at-large.” I’ve lived here 37 years, and only one person has been elected at-large who did not reside in District Two. We currently have three commissioners who reside in that same District Two.

It’s Time Sarasota has proposed a comprehensive, common-sense revision of our City Charter.
We want to move the vote to November when city voter turnout averages 70%; directly elect our mayor; do away with the at-large seats; and go to five, rather than three, single-member council districts. And we have included term limits, which 75% of the public says it wants.

Many claims have been made as to the proposed powers of the mayor. It has been claimed the mayor could fire everyone and hire whomever he or she chooses. Not so.

Hiring of all key personnel must be approved by a majority vote of the council. The council would approve firing, as well — except in the case of department heads. And please consider this: What boss have you ever had who could not fire someone who worked under them who wasn’t doing his job properly?

And yes, our proposed mayor may speak at will with individual council persons just as the city manager may now without it being a violation of the Sunshine law.

The revised charter is 18 pages; it kept 80% of the old charter. It is easy to read and understand, and there are no hidden powers or agendas. It is a checks-and-balances charter co-drafted by people who were born here or have lived here most of their lives.
Diana Hamilton

+ City should sue Mogensen
Dear Editor:
I am dismayed at the publicity given by the Observer to Andrea Mogensen in your May 15 edition.

Ms. Mogenson appears to be more interested in feeding her own ego than in the citizens she claims to be protecting from what she perceives as a secretive and corrupt and abusive government.

The continual lawsuits she files, claiming abuse of the Sunshine law, are frivolous and impede the workings of a city government that, at best, is somewhat dysfunctional.

Instead of helping the City Commission and the city staff to perform their duties in support of the citizenry of Sarasota, Ms. Mogenson seems intent on preventing any substantive and forward-looking work to be accomplished by these officials.

I would suggest that our city legal department file meaningful countersuits to stop Ms. Mogenson’s pursuit of what appears to be her hobby to hobble the functioning of our city government. Enough is enough.
J.P. Elden

+ If you build it, they will come
Dear Editor:
There is a Catch-22 aspect to the rush to establish a homeless shelter, whether within Sarasota city limits or elsewhere in the county. In either case, a compelling issue exists that has not been addressed in the Marbut report.

Let me begin with an analogy: a physician’s first concern in triage is to stop the bleeding, i.e., contain the problem and only then pursue a remedy.

Simply stated: Making provision for treating the existing homeless population is counterproductive if, at the same time, we ignore the major migration to Sarasota that would inevitably follow from putting out the welcome mat in the form of such a shelter.  Build it, and they will come.

I would not score the rehabilitation of one individual as a city-wide success story if she were replaced by one or more new arrivals requiring aid at ever more cost to a city already strapped for revenue.

I do not hold myself out as an expert on homelessness. I do, however, claim a modest grasp of logic and reason. Accordingly, although I do not offer a solution to this intractable problem, I submit that the creation of the proposed shelter might well be a magnet that could be expected to increase our homeless population beyond our capacity to absorb it, rather than reduce it.

Do you remember Lucille Ball attempting to keep up with the flow of chocolate on the factory assembly line?
A debate of the welcome mat approach to the problem might well lead to the conclusion that a shelter should not be built at all — regardless of where it would be located — and that, were it to be built, it might, at best, merely put a dent in the problem at an unjustifiably high cost. This issue requires discussion.
Frank Brenner


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