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Sarasota Thursday, May. 8, 2014 3 years ago

Our View


There they go again.

The opponents of an elected Sarasota city mayor — largely City Commission “was-beens” over the past two decades — are doing the Saul Alinsky, Democratic Party thing: creating a grossly distorted perception of an issue to frighten and sway gullible, low-information voters.

This is The Citizens Voice political committee, a misnomered group if there ever was one. Contrary to its name, this group is campaigning to deny voters a Voice. It wants to deny voters the opportunity to decide the merits of a proposed charter that would change how the city is governed.

These committee members — a dozen of them former accomplices in creating City Hall’s wayward plight — are urging voters not to sign a petition that would put the proposed charter change on this November’s ballot. And they are hyping their efforts with the same old, inflammatory, bull-dung scare message they always used: “No Boss Mayor.”

In case you’ve forgotten, they are trying to thwart the efforts of a group known as “It’s Time Sarasota,” authors and promoters of a petition to give voters the opportunity to decide the future governance of the city: to convert the city from a city manager-weenie mayor-commissioner form of government to an elected mayor who serves as the chief executive officer of the city, with a five-member, elected city council that serves as the legislative policy-making body of the city.

To little surprise, a dozen former Sarasota mayors want to continue to live in the past. True to their tenures in office, they want to cling to a vision of Sarasota that squelches, snuffs and smothers the city’s economic and social potential.

These are the “Voices” who, while on the commission:

• Fought bitterly to keep the old Ringling drawbridge;

• Saddled taxpayers with employee benefits that have led to unfunded pension liabilities of $174 million; unfunded post-employment health care benefit liabilities of $122 million; annual taxpayer contributions of $23 million to fund city employee pensions and post-employment health care benefits (all on a general fund budget of $56 million);

• Fought the design of the Selby Library;

• Fought redevelopment on the North Trail;

• Adopted a regulation-laden, anti-property-rights downtown development plan that makes downtown housing unaffordable and unattractive to major employers;

• Twice turned down efforts (and jobs) by Walmart to open stores in the city limits;

• Did nothing to expand the city’s geographic limits to increase its opportunity for an expanded tax base; and

• Managed to burn through three city managers in 10 years.

And thanks to their exemplary leadership, the tradition continues. Sitting commissioners have:

• Brought taxpayers two overpriced parking garages;

• Paid for Main Street parking meters, then yanked them out;

• Created a general-fund structural deficit of about $4 million a year;

• Presided over a lift-station project that is costing more than twice as much as it should, $27 million and climbing; and

• Decided they want to address homelessness by building — at taxpayer expense, we presume — a “come-as-you-are” homeless shelter, which, in other cities, has led to increases in vagrancy and crime.
In the words of Dr. Phil: “How’s that working for you?”

Over the past decade and a half, City Hall and the City Commission have proven to be so dysfunctional they are conversation starters at dinner parties — that is, if you want a good laugh. So dysfunctional at times, and so incapable of making tough decisions and economically progressive decisions, it’s sad.
Sad because the city has so much untapped potential.

This can all be attributed to: Lack of leadership. No leader. No vision. No visionary.

Government by committee.

Surely reasonable city residents can see in plain daylight week after week the status quo of the manager-commission form of government has perpetuated that popular definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Look around. Look at the cities and counties on the rise, on the move. The common characteristic is an elected CEO mayor with a vision and who can rally his citizens and execute the vision.

Sarasota city residents deserve the opportunity to have the debate. To hear the representatives of Sarasota Voices make their case for the status quo and the representatives of It’s Time Sarasota to make their case for change.

If you haven’t signed the petition to put the proposed elected-mayor charter changes on the November ballot, we urge you to go online and sign it.

Contrary to the disingenuous campaign of The Sarasota Voices Committee, give yourself the opportunity for your voice to be heard. You can find the petition at:

The following are listed as members of The Citizens Voice Committee, which opposes letting voters decide in the November election the merits of a proposed charter amendment. They like the city just the way it is.

• Eileen Normile, chair

• Curtiss Schantz, treasurer

• Nora Patterson (current county commissioner, former mayor and city commissioner)

• Elmer Berkel (former mayor, and city commissioner)

• Mollie Cardamone (former mayor and city commissioner)

• Richard Clapp (former mayor and city commissioner)

• Kelly Kirschner (former mayor and city commissioner)

• William Kline (former mayor and city commissioner)

• Richard Martin (former mayor and city commissioner)

• David Merrill (former mayor and city commissioner)

• Lou Ann Palmer (former mayor and city commissioner)

• Rita Roehr (former mayor and city commissioner)

• Anne Bishopric Sager (former mayor and city commissioner)

• Fred Soto (former mayor and city commissioner)

• Cathy Antunes
• Del Borgsdorf
• Barbara Campo
• Manuel Chepote
• Robert Easterle
• Barbara Langston
• Arthur Levin
• Jude Levy
• Kathy Kelly Olrich
• Carol Reynolds
• Ronald Riffel
• Gretchen Serrie
• Candy Spaulding
• Bob Windom

Sarasota Ballet Puts Us on the Map
When the Sarasota Ballet search committee interviewed Iain Webb for the artistic director position seven years ago, committee members told Webb they were hoping to hire a candidate who could take what was then a small ballet company to international acclaim.

Webb, of course, told committee members he would like to do the same. What candidate wouldn’t say that?

Webb almost didn’t get the job.

But it was meant to be.

Over the past seven years — a short time for any organization, Webb and his wife and Sarasota Ballet Assistant Artistic Director Margaret Barbieri have infused the ballet company and its dancers with a passion for excellence, ambition, vision, focus and achievement that is, well, a sight to behold.

All of that was in full flower this past weekend at the Ashton Festival, a tribute to the late Sir Frederick Ashton, one of the greatest choreographers of all time.

And judging from the post-festival press reports from New York, London, Toronto and beyond, Webb has done what he said: He put Sarasota Ballet and Sarasota on the world map. Bravo.


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