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Richard Dorfman has worked to develop North Tamiami Trail, where he owns a condominium unit. Photo by Rachel S. O'Hara.
Sarasota Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013 4 years ago

Election: Dorfman takes a second shot at the City Commission

by: Alex Mahadevan News Innovation Editor

A bright orange softball bat sits next to the door of an 11th-story condominium overlooking Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.

The walls of Sarasota City Commission candidate Richard Dorfman’s 2,100-square-foot home are painted burnt orange and are populated with paintings by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, among other pieces of pop art.

Sixty-one-year-old Dorfman sits on his couch under a Tom Wesselman painting on a recent afternoon — high above the neighborhoods he’ll canvass the following day. He’ll begin at 10 a.m., knocking on doors and meeting potential constituents.

From his balcony, Dorfman can see the beginning of North Tamiami Trail. The poorly developed stretch of highway leading to the airport is the backbone of his candidacy.

“If a city doesn’t continue to grow, a city will die,” Dorfman said.

Current zoning regulations along the trail discourage development because they are too stringent and use out-dated jargon, Dorfman said. The vocal groups of residents who oppose changing land-use restrictions, or particular development proposals in the area, don’t see the long-term benefit of allowing more development.

Encouraging commercial development within city boundaries expands the local tax-base and expands the government’s ability to provide neighborhood beautification services, and it displaces criminal activity, he said.

“It’s a domino effect,” Dorfman said.

That’s where young professionals fit into Dorfman’s campaign.

Members of the Sarasota Young Professional Group spawned Young Advocates for Sarasota to give young professionals a political vehicle.

The group cites more affordable downtown housing and tweaking the city’s noise ordinance as major issues in the March election. Dorfman has touted both initiatives.

In the late 1980s, the former National Basketball Association director of broadcasting lived in London and spent his professional career selling television rights of international sporting events, such as the FIFA World Cup.

Dorfman recalled one year when he didn’t spend more than four nights in the same bed.

“I felt I lived in a constant state of catching up,” Dorfman said.

But, in 2009, Dorfman chose Sarasota as his permanent home.

“It has this incredibly warm and cultural feel, and a lack of pretentiousness — and a great vibe,” Dorfman said.

Dorfman said he stayed away from politics and enjoyed the vibe for a year. But, perceived inaction and turmoil within the city of Sarasota government pushed him to start attending City Commission meetings.
In 2011, Dorfman ran for the District 1 commission seat.

“I had to put my money where my mouth was,” he said.

He missed the opportunity when he lost the chance at a run-off election by 16 votes, to current opponent Linda Holland.

During that election, Dorfman ran on a similar platform focused on building consensus, rather than disagreement and stagnation.

Discussion about opponents to growth and redevelopment draws a tinge of frustration from Dorfman’s calm demeanor.

Dorfman spends what little free time he has outside of campaigning playing one of his four guitars or saxophone — three blues harmonicas are on the way to him in the mail. He spent the previous night watching blues artist George Worthmore play at Blue Rooster on Fourth Street.

Sarasota Commissioner Paul Caragiulo regularly accompanies Dorfman to shoot clay pigeons at Knight’s Trail park.

“It’s a great way to blow off steam,” Dorfman said. “Make a lot of noise and break things.”

He used the orange softball bat that sits next to his front door while playing in a senior softball league last year, but had to withdraw this spring to focus on his campaign, he said.

Family: Girlfriend Suzette Jones
Occupation: Former director of broadcasting for the National Basketball Association; current board member of Mumbai, India,-based Nimbus Communications
Age: 61
Hometown: New York, N.Y.
Hobbies: Watching live music; playing guitar; running the Ringling Bridge; collecting Pop Art; shooting skeet at Knight’s Trail
Education: American University, bachelor of the arts in communication and business

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