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Sarasota Thursday, Apr. 15, 2010 7 years ago

Letters to the editor


+ Statue should move locations
Dear Editor:
What a cruel joke!

After reading the front page (in the April 1 issue of The Sarasota Observer) we were thrilled with the perfect solution for the “Unconditional Surrender” location.

We immediately drove to St. Armands with our cameras only to be disappointed not to see it on St. Armands.

What a great spot. Please help make it happen for all the reasons in your April Fools’ article. Please.

Bob and Nordis Luxembourg

+ People space should be No. 1
Dear Editor:
“Green space is preferred to hardscape.” Sounds like good public policy. “Green” is what it’s all about, isn’t it? Who can argue with “green?” Well, ironically, I can. Yes, me — the only gardener on the Greenspace Policy Committee is going to bat for hardscape.

In our downtown, shouldn’t people space come before green space? Oh, you’re worried about our street trees. Me too, but trees are not green space. Trees are good, but not so (for) all those in-ground beds of mulch and sad shrubbery, i.e., green space, that cramp our downtown sidewalks, contribute little environmentally and even less aesthetically.

So, what could we do differently? Condense by half the area of those rambling, sleepy, suburban mulched beds and construct affordable, easier-to-maintain, streetside raised planters full of bright, seasonal annuals and Florida-friendly flowering perennials. If we just did that we would create a more hip, happening, colorful, prosperous, walkable and, yes, green and beautified downtown.

Let’s keep policy language simple, too. I propose language that reflects a commonsense balance between downtown’s primary economic and social use as a “people space” and our perfectly valid desire to make our urban world more green. But when adding either “people space” or “green space” let it be purposeful: as seating to widen sidewalks or to brighten a dull spot. (This should) never (be done) because someone or a group has arbitrarily determined we need more.

Our policy should be most clear in regard to existing and future street trees. We must commit to best practices, i.e., right tree, right place, in care and installation, but whenever possible keep facade design perimeters in mind when choosing which trees to plant. For example, it would be a shame to insist on canopy trees for our new parking garage when royal, or perhaps foxtail, palms would, as they mature, better enhance its more modern, elegant sail architecture.

Good public policy — especially as it relates to the urban environment whether built, or, as in this case, people space versus green space — must allow for a certain site-specific flexibility. One-size-fits-all has proven to be a failed concept — always too loose or too tight — never just right. Discretionary language, such as “generally,” “balanced,” “whenever possible,” “purposeful” and “recommended,” although it might appear “weasely” to some, is necessary to provide for both creative and commonsense professional interpretation and application of any modern day city code.

Our city commissioners are not planners or arborists or code professionals. They are public servants — politicians. Although making public policy may be their job, it is their more serious responsibility to consider most carefully the long view, the future consequence to all of every policy, of every action taken. Acting in blind service to a currently popular agenda of any given group, no matter how benign that agenda may seem, undermines and robs us — the citizens — of our larger civic incentive to participate. Public policy that places green space before people space is such an action and should be reconsidered.

Diana Hamilton


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