OK, this page is no joke.
We know, of course, there are those who think this page is a joke every week. Which is good for them; they get a laugh every week.
But unlike past years when we’ve published an April Fools’ Day spoof or two on this page, we left the fun stuff for pages 1A through 4A this year.
We hope you got a kick out of at least one of our spoof stories. If you say you didn’t, surely you jest. Come on, you had to laugh at the “Swag shop” for federal stimulus money. Knowing what goes on in real life in this country, such a store is not really beyond the scope of reality.
Indeed, that’s one of the keys to our doing this edition — coming up with ideas that have a degree of plausibility, or better yet, an outrage factor that makes people go blooey.
We still can’t believe the April Fools’ issue that prompted a California engineer to contact us for proof that water currents dislodged the trusses of the unfinished Ringling Bridge so much that the two ends would not meet in the middle. He wanted pictures and proof that this engineering impossibility didn’t really occur. It was a great piece of “Photoshop” manipulation.
Or we still laugh at the time the former owner/operators of the Longboat Key Club, Shane Egan and Tom Rasmussen, announced they were going to hold a a bike week and swap meet at the Key Club. People actually called the resort to make reservations. Can you imagine the horror-stricken residents of L’Ambiance if it were true?
And last year we received numerous congratulatory notes after we published our spoof announcing The Observer Group had purchased the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Wow, talk about science fiction.
This year, the plausibility factor is pretty real. It’s not beyond the owners of the Longboat Key Club and Resort selling out to the town; or the town rescinding its backflow-device orders; or even the opening of a stimulus-money Swag shop.
Let’s laugh about these now — and hope they remain only part of our April Fools’ Day lore.
Now, on to the real stuff …
+ Alternative to renourish?
Let’s pretend: Longboat Key Town Manager Bruce St. Denis goes to the Town Commission meeting Monday night with an estimate of $50 million or more to renourish Longboat Key’s beach in 2011 with fine white sand.
What would you do if you were a town commissioner?
This is one of David Brenner’s moments. He has said in the past the town needs a better long-term strategy than the every-five-years renourishment plan. As we can now see, that process is destined to ever escalate in cost.
So the first question a commissioner might ask is: What are the alternatives?
What have other barrier islands around the world done to maintain their beaches?
Sounds like an assignment for … Coastal Planning and Engineering? Perhaps there’s a less-biased researcher.
+ Trespassing at Longbeach
It’s perplexing that the residents of Longbeach Condominium are feeling defeated and almost helpless in their inability to keep trespassers off their property.
Lawbreakers are continuously walking on the condominium’s seawall and damaging its vegetation to make their way to the beach, a result of the closure of the North Shore Road beach access because of erosion.
An exasperated Wayne Kimmel told The Longboat Observer last week he expects to see 50 to 100 trespassers every Saturday and Sunday until the town renourishes the North Shore beach in 2012 and reopens the beach access.
What follows may be easier said than done, but this situation reminds us of public gum chewing in Singapore. If you do it, you get punished severely enough that you’d be a fool to do it again. In other words, make criminals pay — severely.
Stopping the trespassers is going to require an all-out effort on the part of the Longboat Key Police Department. And town commissioners should back them up and insist on aggressive anti-trespassing patrolling, arrests and fines.
Private property is just that. And the Longbeach Condominium residents have a right to enjoy their property and be free of trespassers.
This is why we pay a lot of taxes for the police department — to protect us. And this is an instance that requires an all-out effort — heavy patrolling, ticketing and arresting at prime beach time.
Our police and commissioners should send the message: If you trespass on Longboat Key, you’re going to pay — big.
+ Where are Sarasota cops?
It has become clockwork. Just like the sun rising and setting. Virtually every late afternoon in the height of our tourist season, the west-to-east lanes on John Ringling Parkway, from Lido Key to Tamiami Trail, turn into creeping, bumper-to-bumper traffic.
It reminds us of the bad ol’ days when the rickety, old Ringling drawbridge would bring life to a halt.
It’s not difficult to figure out why these traffice jams are occurring. All those people who went to St. Armands Circle to shop and to the beach want to go home at the same time.
What’s more, the stop lights at Gulf Stream and Tamiami Trail and Fruitville and Tamiami Trail don’t help.
This is great evidence for the proponents of roundabouts. But those mechanisms are still a long way off.
One of the easiest temporary fixes to this daily ritual sits in Sarasota police headquarters. And that would be a decision by Chief Peter Abbott to man the mainland intersections from 3 to 7 p.m. with patrol officers directing traffic.
There are no excuses. Redeploy resources where they are needed most. At least make an effort.
+ We vs. me
Longboat Key resident Lenny Landau has spent his professional engineering career at General Electric helping the company find ways to save money and become more efficient. He has been good at it, too.
More recently, in a quai-retired status, Landau has joined the volunteer world, serving as treasurer of Sarasota Ballet and then becoming interested in trying to tighten up the town budget. That project introduced him to Phill Younger and a friendship that led to Landau helping Younger in Younger’s bid for Town Commission.
Landau also joined the Longboat Key Public Interest Committee. He has helped organize a few public forums, most recently a forum almost two weeks ago on cellular telephone service.
Through all of this community involvement on Longboat Key, as well as after attending many Town Commission meetings, Landau has observed a common element to issues on Longboat Key — “we versus me.”
Take cell towers: It’s former Longboat Key Mayor Jeremy Whatmough and resident Gus Sclafani fighting a north-Key cell tower vs. business interests and others who say clear reception is essential to life in the 21st century. Take the Key Club: It’s a group of residents in south-end condos fighting a majority of residents who want the Key Club to renovate and expand.
Those are isolated, recent examples. But they illustrate how government is often used (or attempted to be used) for the few at the expense of the many.
Isn’t that also called democracy — which is what Winston Churchill called “the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”
+ Fair warning about liberty
“Not long before Milton Friedman’s death in 2006, I had a conversation with (Milton) Friedman. He had just reviewed the growth of spending that was then taking place under the Bush administration, and he was not happy. After a pause during the Reagan years, Friedman had explained, government spending had once again begun to rise.
“The challenge for my generation,” Friedman told me, “was to provide an intellectual defense of liberty.”
Then Friedman looked at me. ‘The challenge for your generation is to keep it.’
“What was the prospect, I asked (Professor Gary) Becker, that this generation would indeed keep its liberty? ‘It could go either way,’ Becker replies.”
— Peter Robinson interviewing economics Professor Gary Becker, Wall Street Journal, March 27
Why Two Groins
Why two groins in front of the Islander Club and only one in front of the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort?
Longboat Key Town Manager Bruce St. Denis tells us there is a lot of science, geography and nature involved.
One groin works in front of the Colony, in part because of where the resort is located on the Key in relation to the natural flow of water. Sand naturally washes down the Key from, say, the Islander Club and settles in front of the Colony because its geographic location and the Colony groin.
The Islander Club, in contrast, sits on the Key where the natural terrain of the Key in relation to the flow of water makes it more difficult to hold sand.
Two groins were chosen for the Islander Club — one on the northern side of its property and one on its southern side, St. Denis says, because one groin wouldn’t hold enough sand on either side of it to create enough beach to extend the length of the Islander Club’s property.
The cost of the two groins was about $900,000.