When it comes to the recent push for an elected mayor, members of city neighborhood associations say their organizations are being inappropriately used for political purposes.
On the website for It’s Time Sarasota, the political group advocating for a new city charter and an elected mayor, seven city neighborhood associations are used to identify some of the 18 people who helped draft the new charter. On Saturday, the Coalition of City Neighborhood Associations requested that the group remove the names of neighborhood associations that have not taken a position on the charter.
One of the leading advocates for the new caucus, Diana Hamilton, is named as a member of the Laurel Park Neighborhood Association. At Saturday’s CCNA meeting, representatives from Laurel Park strongly objected to this — most importantly, they said, because Hamilton is not actually a member of the organization.
Beyond that, they said, the use of neighborhood association names in general was misleading, even considering It's Time Sarasota's disclaimer that all participants were acting on their own behalf. Several people at Saturday’s meeting said that, unless a neighborhood association specifically took a stand, the organizations shouldn’t be used as identifiers in a political campaign.
“It says they're not representing organizations in an official capacity, but they're giving the impression that the neighborhood is behind the idea,” said Jude Levy, a Laurel Park Neighborhood Association board member.
Levy argued that It’s Time Sarasota was using these neighborhood organizations to make the campaign for a new caucus seem like it had more widespread support than it actually did.
“What's happening is they're labeling this a grassroots movement because they're naming your neighborhoods,” Levy said. “The board asked that our Laurel Park name be taken off the list, and it hasn't.”
Linda Holland, chairwoman of It’s Time Sarasota and president of the Gillespie Park Neighborhood Association, said she hadn’t had the time to respond to the complaint from the Laurel Park Neighborhood Association due to an illness. At Saturday’s meeting, said she would take their concerns back to other members of It’s Time Sarasota. As of Monday, no references to neighborhood associations had been removed from the group’s website.
Contact David Conway at [email protected].