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Sarasota Thursday, Jun. 4, 2015 5 years ago

Letter to the Editor

The Great Divide: Let’s go unitary

The Great Divide: Let’s go unitary 

Dear Editor:

The Sarasota Observer’s article on “The Great Divide” May 28 was informative, insightful and should cause dismay for the citizens of Sarasota — city and county.   

We are a county with fewer than 400,000 citizens but with huge potential. Merely 30% of the voters reside in the three largest cities of North Port, Venice and Sarasota, with the city of Sarasota representing only 13% of the county.

Isn’t it simply common sense that in a county our size — smaller than most cities — that what is good for the county should be good for the cities within, and what is good for the cities within should be good for the county?

The fact that there are egos, at cross purposes, should be eliminated immediately.

A few years back, The Argus Foundation sponsored a visit from Jerry Abramson, former mayor of Louisville, Ky. (then lieutenant governor of Kentucky and now working in Washington, D.C.). His message was the county and city of Louisville had been at odds and eventually initiated a unitary form of government — doing away with one layer. All indicators suggested this was good for growth and the taxpayers. 

Aside from Louisville, similar changes have been successfully implemented in Nashville and Jacksonville, cities and counties much larger than Sarasota. 

Sarasota County has started some consolidation, but this could/should be accelerated — for instance, either complete or being considered, 911 dispatching; some maintenance issues; fire departments.    

Does it make any sense that the Sarasota Police Department and Sarasota County Sheriff’s Department are within two blocks of each other, and yet the sheriff’s officers do not patrol the city?

Sarasota has a great opportunity in front of us at the Bayfront with the 20:20 initiative and advancing our performing arts infrastructure. Yet this fissure between the county and city is already having a negative impact on potential funding.  

As citizen voters and as elected officials we need to challenge the old and ring in a new form of governance.

Joel Schleicher


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