The Longboat Key Public Interest Committee is history.
Officially, the group dissolved in September after a new state law eliminated all committees of continuous existence (CCEs), including PIC, and required them to cease all activities and have zero bank-account balances by Sept. 30.
Critics of CCEs argued that they were ripe for abuse because they lacked limits on what expenditures were allowed.
PIC’s board considered reorganizing as a 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) organization “with the intent of continuing our educational mission without political overtones,” according to a letter sent to PIC members in September.
But, when board members of the organization formerly known as PIC gathered Nov. 9, to discuss the future of the group, they agreed to discontinue PIC and donate the balance of $3,200 in its coffers to the Longboat Library.
“The deciding factor was really that we couldn’t be a political committee,” said PIC Co-President Gaele Barthold, citing the extensive reporting requirements such a reorganization would have required.
“It’s been 27 years,” she said. “That’s a good, long run for an organization.”
PIC formed in 1985 and incorporated in 1986 “to try to find a suitable way to provide their neighbors with factual, unbiased information about the town as it seeks to address its problems,” according to the first issue of its newsletter, “The Voice.”
At the time, many residents who joined PIC were concerned about the possibility of overdevelopment on the Key as Arvida Corp. developed the south end. In the 1980s and early 1990s, PIC helped to elect commissioners who instituted strict regulations for development.
At its peak, membership swelled to more than 1,000.
But with the goals of many of PIC’s early leaders accomplished, the group began to lose interest from the community. The group also shifted its once hard-line stance against development and commercialization on the island to one that advocated for a balance of residents, tourists and businesses.
“Without all the controversy, we just didn’t have all the excitement going forward,” said PIC Co-President Ann Roth.
Barthold and Roth were at the end of their three-year terms as co-presidents and couldn’t find anyone willing to assume leadership of the group.
PIC continued to endorse candidates and take positions on issues.
But much of its role became educational in recent years.
Typically, it held one or two public forums about Key issues and a debate for commission candidates every year.
Both Roth and Barthold credit the work of a PIC panel with helping to get the commission’s attention about the town’s underfunded pension plans.
Barthold hopes programs that inform the community will continue, possibly with help from the library.
“One thing we’re going to talk to them about is using some of that money to sponsor educational forums,” she said.
Spring 1985 — The Longboat Key Public Interest Committee (PIC) formed.
October 1985 — PIC published its first newsletter, “The Voice of Longboat Key.”
Jan. 1, 1986 — PIC incorporated after discussions with the town clerk and Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections.
1993 — PIC membership peaked at 1,100 members.
1999 — PIC changed the mission on its newsletter from “dedicated to reporting the facts about our town” to “dedicated to promoting good government in our town.”
2008 — PIC supported the approval of a referendum allowing the rebuilding of 250 tourism units — indicating a shift in stance for a group that was once considered anti-development by many.
2013 — A new state law required all committees of continuing existence (CCEs) to cease operations and have a zero bank balance by Sept. 30.
Contact Robin Hartill at email@example.com
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