It has been requested that I state a position on, and even suggested that I focus this column on my opinion regarding the “noise issue” that is apparently plaguing Siesta Key as of late. However, I’d rather discuss a side of the “noise issue” debate that I feel is typically overlooked.
A question of decibel levels has again garnered the attention of the three main stakeholders of our fine county: government, businesses, and citizens. Of course, there is a fine line between how those groups as government staff and officials, as well as business owners, are counted among our citizens. This is the common thread that connects us all: We are all citizens here and should focus on the future of our area.
Rather than focus on the time at which entertainment of all kinds takes place in north Siesta Village, and the decibel levels that it reaches, I prefer to reflect on the roles that the three main stakeholder groups are called upon to serve in Sarasota County.
Oddly, I feel that the most complex piece is actually the simplest to address. Government, at its core, exists to secure the rights of its citizens. Sometimes, I fear, another function is merely to protect us from ourselves; however, that’s another column altogether. In this case, should businesses and citizens agree on an amicable concept of noise ordinance, then the government should merely enforce that which the electorate desires.
Noise is undoubtedly an arbitrary issue; many of us perceive it quite differently. Similarly, the appropriate time of day for entertainment, and the subsequent noise it creates, can be quite subjective. Thus, if government were to merely enforce a noise ordinance based on its own findings, there is a possibility of not aptly serving businesses and/or citizens alike.
Next, I’d like to turn to the role of business. It would be hard to ignore that one of the key roles of business is to serve the citizens. What is a business without profit? It’s almost the quintessential business 101 course — businesses are able to continue to exist because they serve citizens in the ways those citizens desire and can do so better than competing businesses — otherwise known as “competitive advantage.” If businesses do more harm than good, and thus underserve the citizens, I can only assume that they will be short-lived. Businesses cannot reject their obligation to be good stewards of the areas in which they operate and, in our case, cannot begin to underestimate the importance of serving the citizens of Sarasota County.
Of course, citizens have a critical role in this process as well. Citizens are to support business. Let us not forget the vital role that businesses play in our local economy. Between taxes and employment, businesses are one of the main reasons that we are able to enjoy the quality of life that we have come to expect. Even the most non-business savvy minds can understand that many of our local businesses could survive elsewhere — however, they choose to do so in Sarasota County. We cannot underestimate the importance of their decision to operate here. Much like businesses will fail if they do not serve citizens, businesses will leave if the citizens do not support them.
So, what do we do when a “noise issue” arises in a location where a residential area borders a commercial district? If it were up to me, we would all fulfill the roles that society bestows upon us and move toward an amicable end.
However, based on the requests to state a position on the subject, I fear we are further away from that end than we should be. If we cannot communicate, we cannot cooperate. If we cannot cooperate, we cannot collaborate. If we cannot collaborate, we cannot cohabitate. The real “noise issue” that concerns me is the silence that is created when discourse between businesses and citizens comes to an end.
Kevin Cooper is the executive director of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce.