MUNICIPAL FOCUS - A Weekly Commentary: Elected leaders brace for homeless-shelter fight


MUNICIPAL FOCUS - A Weekly Commentary: Elected leaders brace for homeless-shelter fight


Date: October 8, 2013
by: Alex Mahadevan | Digital Content Producer



Not in my backyard …

That’s a common phrase in Sarasota. We hear it and see it all the time here — involving debates over lift stations, dog parks, re-development initiatives and now, a strategy to reduce homelessness.

Indeed, Sarasota elected officials are known to ignore expert advice if neighborhood opposition reaches certain decibel levels.

Call it “tyranny of the minority.” How small groups have killed or seriously disrupted innovative plans in Sarasota.

Consider, for instance, Dr. Steve Bedi’s project that would have reduced the blight of a portion of the North Trail. A minority of neighbors protested, and city commissioners rejected it. 

So, it’s no surprise that two Sarasota city commissioners have already raised concerns about the potential site for a homeless facility, which would serve as the cornerstone to addressing homelessness here.

After agreeing to pay homeless expert Dr. Robert Marbut $40,000 and earmarking $500,000 for homeless management, Sarasota city commissioners have begun debating a potential site for a one-stop holistic homeless shelter. Commissioner Willie Shaw said he opposes a site in North Sarasota and Commissioner Susan Chapman opposes a site near the downtown core.

Classic NIMBYism.

“I don’t worry about politics,” Marbut said in an Oct. 7 phone interview with the Observer. “I just pick the right place.” But, the location of such a facility is "critical" to its success.

Marbut has reviewed more than 40 sites and considers three to be viable locations, with owners willing to negotiate for a sale. Marbut said he could have a report completed this month if municipalities instructed him to do so, but he would like to do another round of site assessments. And Marbut hasn’t been told whether he will present to each municipality separately or during a joint meeting.

“The goal should be how to reduce homelessness,” Marbut said.

The need for solutions is clear; it’s an economic, as well as a social issue. Would you want to move your business onto a Main Street littered with vagrants, some of whom have violent rap sheets?

Said Marbut: “The cities that get stuck in NIMBYism don’t move forward — it’s that simple.”

+ In other municipal news:

• The debate about how much restaurant space to allow in the State Street garage has ballooned into a wider discussion about a possible cap on restaurant space in downtown Sarasota and St. Armands Circle.

It’s doubtful either the Downtown Improvement District or the St Armands Business Improvement District has the authority to do so, but such a mandate would be akin to protectionism and a government-sanctioned cartel for the existing restaurants.

• Sarasota County commissioners have the chance to appoint a new member to the Downtown Community Redevelopment Area Extension Study Committee after the departure of former Chairman David Merrill.

Merrill took criticism for advocating CRAs elsewhere in the county.


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Currently 1 Response

  • 1.
  • Very cute. The idea that NIMBYism for the homeless is akin to NIMBYism for dog parks shows how ignorant and isolated Alex Mahadevan is from the realities of street life and proximity to a "wet" boot camp loaded with drunken and high vagrants running criminal street enterprises courtesy of unsuspecting taxpayers and enabling Christians.

    So far in my corner of Gillespie Park there have been daily encounters with acting out vagrants who have urinated, defacated and littered all over the park while verbally harrassing tax paying neighbors and almost setting the park and our homes on fire. Two of the fattest, young thug, street drug runners with their pants down around their thighs, riding on their free Salvation Army bikes sending cops to some other part of town on their free government cell phones so they can sell some heroin almost ran me over and threatened to kill my dog.

    Because they can't stay sober enough to be at the Salvation Army two block away, the majority of Sarasota's "homeless" inhabit a reed field one block on the other side of the neighborhood. One neighbor was murdered; her bludgeoned, sliced and diced body found in the field last Spring. Murder still unsolved. Thank goodness the tourists and Snowbirds were mostly gone...

    The back yard has a fourplex with "homeless" working girls earning their $10 to stay at the Salvation Army and their $100 for the next fix who get picked up on both sidewalks and drug dealers who park in front of the house to run around the corner and make their score. So pleasant to mow the lawn over the crack pipes that end up there. So before your hearts bleed too much for this pack of ME-ME-ME freeloaders, oops, I mean poor unfortunate souls with social issues lets have a reality check about NIMBYism from those of us with AIMBYism-ALREADY IN MY BACK YARD. It's really easy to be a critic from Siesta Key or even Bird Key but, frankly, in any key we are not singing your marching song that we should fall in line or be called names, like NIMBYs.

    So I have an idea. GWiz is closed and that city building that was renting for a buck a year is available. Right there on the waterfront for those wet vagrants who are having a hard day, a stone's throw from the Hyatt where if they would only clean up some, a job for $8 an hour might be available, close to the library and the downtown...and none of those pesky neighbors...oh unless you count high rise dwellers as a "neighborhood".
  • Dale Orlando
    Sat 12th Oct 2013
    at 8:22am
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