+ Sit-in protest at library aimed at park benches
About two-dozen demonstrators conducted a sit-in protest May 23 at Selby Five Points Park.
The protesters objected to the complete removal of benches from the park. They brought their own lawn chairs or just sat on the grass.
City commissioners ordered last week the removal of park benches to eliminate the massing of transients, who, residents say, monopolize all of the bench space.
Demonstrators were homeless supporters and the homeless themselves.
“The park is open to everyone,” said Sarasota resident Hedda Matza-Haughton. “I come from New York. Everyone sits on benches in Central Park, whether you’re homeless or not.”
A homeless woman, who wanted to remain anonymous, said removing the benches to rid the park of transients is wrong.
“They shouldn’t do this just because someone wants to sit on a bench,” she said. “I could see it if someone is sleeping on the benches.”
Downtown residents say many homeless do sleep on the benches and sit on them for hours at a time, which prevents others from using them.
“They have set up a home office there,” said Jim Lampl. “They’re there for six to eight-hour shifts.”
The city plans to study the effects of the bench removal in three months and then decide whether the benches should return to the park.
+ Downtown parking meters go online
After a couple of years of discussion and several back-and-forth City Commission votes, downtown parking meters were finally unveiled and put to use.
Drivers began paying to park in parts of downtown May 23.
More than 470 metered spaces are located in an area bounded roughly by Orange Avenue, Gulfstream Avenue, McAnsh Square and Second Street.
For two weeks, volunteer “parking ambassadors” will monitor Main Street and help drivers use the new meters.
Mayor Suzanne Atwell served as one of those ambassadors.
She said she received mostly positive remarks, but she also received some negative comments. One man said he’d never visit Sarasota again.
+ Government offices closed for holiday
City and county government offices will be closed Monday, May 30, for Memorial Day. Downtown paid parking will not be enforced on holidays. Trash collection will not be affected.
Meetings & agendas
â–º Alta Vista Neighborhood Association — 7 p.m. Thursday, May 26, Harmony Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, 2600 Courtland St., Sarasota
â–º Gillespie Park Neighborhood Association — 7 p.m. Thursday, May 26, Gillespie Park Substation, 710 N. Osprey Ave., Sarasota
â–º Early Learning Coalition — 8 a.m. Friday, May 27, Cavanaugh and Company, 2381 Fruitville Road, Sarasota
â–º Police Officers’ Pension — 8:15 a.m. Friday, May 27, Police Headquarters, 2099 Adams Lane, Sarasota