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Sarasota Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014 5 years ago

Letters to the Editor


+ Compare the records
Dear Editor:
I have always respected The Observer as a bastion of conservative thought whose views on financial matters I often agree with.

That’s why I cannot help but believe The Observer did not know the full story of this school board race when it chose last week to reverse its earlier dual endorsement of both my opponent and me.

On the measure of financial responsibility alone, The Observer as the area’s fiscal watchdog should be endorsing candidates based on their proven ability to save taxpayer dollars — not on whether they might “challenge the status quo,” which is really my opponent’s only valid claim to run for office.

My career includes 20 years of successful grant writing and saving taxpayer dollars. I’ve helped our schools save hundreds of thousands of dollars, in many areas of operations. I, and many voters, would have assumed this fact alone would be The Observer’s top priority — let alone my 40 years of experience working hand-in-hand with both parents and teachers to serve students of all kinds and ages.

Which leads to the next curiosity about The Observer’s endorsement: Why would such a distinguished publication, with such a history of guarding the public interest, endorse my opponent, a candidate whose campaign is setting a record for the greatest invasion of “dark money” in our school board’s history?
Tens of thousands of dollars are being poured into my opponent’s campaign anonymously through PACs and limited liability corporations. This is exactly the kind of shady influence that has been decried nationwide as harmful to our political system.

Every single donor to my campaign is public record. Any voter can learn every detail about who is funding my campaign and how that money is being used. The same cannot be said of my opponent and her campaign. Some of those advocating the strongest for her election will never be known to voters. That is wrong — and in my book, reason enough alone to vote for me Nov. 4.

These are our children, after all.

Even if experience and the invasion of “dark money” into our schools don’t raise enough eyebrows at The Observer’s surprise endorsement reversal last week, there is that oft-repeated question of whether I am receiving undue support from the teachers union, or from my supporters’ overzealous use of the taxpayer-funded school district email system.

I am among the most avid supporters of ethical practices among school district employees, as my co-workers over the past 20 years can and do attest. While I welcome everyone’s avid support, I share taxpayers’ concerns that school district employees keep politics out of their workday.

But why is The Observer not equally concerned — if not more so — about questions now raised regarding possible abuse of district email by my opponent herself? My opponent is alleged to have sent fundraising emails to school district employees during the workday. Given the power she wields over these very employees’ jobs, my opponent’s overzealous use of district email is far more egregious than what has been alleged against my supporters.

I am also not ashamed of receiving $2,000 in total donations from our local teachers’ union — especially when compared to the tens of thousands of secret special-interest dollars being spent on behalf of my opponent.

Nor am I ashamed that some sitting school board members — many of whom I’ve frequently disagreed with during my two-decade Sarasota County Schools’ career — recognize I am by far the more experienced, qualified and trustworthy candidate on the School Board ballot Nov. 4.

In closing, I simply encourage voters: Don’t listen to me. Don’t listen to The Observer. Compare me with my opponent on any and all measures relevant to the education of our students and their futures.

I am confident you will arrive at the best possible decision. If you have any further questions, reach out to me at: 941-586-9526. I sincerely ask for your vote Nov. 4.

Ken Marsh
Sarasota County School Board candidate

Editor’s note: Regarding alleged email violations by candidate Bridget Ziegler, state law permits candidates to send emails to public employees’ email addresses but prohibits public employees from sending political emails on public email systems during work hours.

+ A growing trend
Dear Editor:
A recent analysis of Greater Sarasota’s Eat Local Resource Guide and Directory, which published its first print edition last week, found that our local food sector has been growing at around 33% per year since April 2011.

Considering that a 2006 study concluded that Sarasota County residents buying just 10% of their food from a local farmer would add $80 millionper year to our local economy, this should be considered a very significant development.

Yet it seems that too many people still consider local food a niche market, a pastime for wealthy foodies who want to feel better about themselves. I couldn’t disagree more.

Not only have programs such as Fresh Access Bucks and our own Suncoast Gleaning Project extended access to local produce for those who can least afford it, the cultivation of a robust local food economy is critical to the future health, security and sustainability of our community as a whole.

So, in addition to the opening of a new mall and the Sarasota School of Architecture, we should be celebrating the arrival of our area’s 4th annual Eat Local Week, which runs from Oct. 24 through Oct. 30. Twenty-four local businesses and organizations have come together to offer a diverse program of 22 public events, a testament to the strength and momentum behind this movement and the importance of re-engaging with the most fundamental and universal of all human activities: the growing and eating of food.

Don Hall
Executive director
Transition Sarasota

+ Charlie Crist’s insurance claims don’t ring true
Dear Editor:
Charlie Crist claims he has been and will be for insurance rate relief. While governor, Crist pushed the Insurance Commission to not approve a rate increase requested by State Farm. Crist told State Farm to leave Florida if they felt they had to raise their rates.

State Farm said OK we will leave. State Farm was the largest policyholder in the state. Crist panicked and worked out a compromise where State Farm would reduce the number of policies in the state.

Because of Crist, my wife and I were terminated by State Farm and ended up with Citizens. Under State Farm we paid $820 in 2009 and $980 in 2010. Under Citizens we paid $1,916 in 2011 — almost a 100% increase. My recollection is that State Farm wanted an increase of 17%. That would have been a bargain!

I don’t need that type of rate relief!

Mike Hutchinson


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