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Longboat Key Monday, May 6, 2019 8 months ago

Letters to the Editor: Learn from The Bay's public engagement

Longboat readers sound off on issues.
by: Guest Writer
Don’t quit ACE project; do more to engage public  

Your two recent editorials have caused consternation among recent commissioners. They were perceived as negative or too open-ended.

In the first, you state your survey results were not scientific, but even so, the results indicated a lukewarm reception.

The second, I thought, was not a call to quit. It was more a call to do it right.

What I propose the town do next is a broad range of activities to bring the public on board. First, persuade the Town Commission to use the survey that Ringling College of Art and Design had prepared and make it available to the Observer to have a more scientific approach to gaining input.

It might be useful also for me to clarify how the town came upon this property. My recollection is that around 2011 the town had the opportunity to buy the site of what has become the Arts, Culture and Education Center project. The reasoning was clear. A developer had the opportunity to use the site for condominiums. But the Town Commission did not want condos in the center of town.

Some may have had a gleam in their eyes about what might occur, but that wasn't the driving force.

I also think the town should encourage A.G. Lafley, chief executive officer of The Bay project in Sarasota to tell Longboaters what he did to enlist public support in Sarasota. Perhaps the Observer and the Longboat Key Foundation could host such a forum.

As we learn from these activities, the town could host a series of public forums similar to what was done when Bayfront Park was re-developed.

Finally, the town should retain managerial help to help make a viable product. The town manager's emphasis on an open-air theater in the old Amore space is a good first step toward a special arts, culture and education space.

During my final remarks to the Town Commission at a recent commission meeting, I quoted an unknown source, whose comment is still appropriate: “Like any healthy body, Longboat Key needs to reduce stress. This can be achieved through soft community-building, healing divisiveness, creating new traditions and emphasizing goodwill and common interests.”

David Brenner

Former Vice Mayor, Longboat Key

With arts center project, timing was critical

     Of the many tragic flaws in the decision by a few well-placed individuals to scuttle the long-planned Longboat Key Arts, Culture and Education Center, let me highlight just one:  We are 10 years into one of the longest and most dramatic economic expansions in our history. 

Investment juices, including philanthropic ones, are flowing like never before.  In this setting, our (former) partner Ringling College of Art and Design strongly and repeatedly encouraged us to get off the stick and begin our joint fund-raising effort for the Arts Center, as soon as possible, ideally before the end of this season.

  The kick off would have been Monday, May 6.  Now, who knows when, how or with whom?

     Our Mayor says in these pages (May 2, 2019), "The 'timeout' afforded by Ringling's announcement is in the best interest of the town.  Is it?  Will we find a better operator? Fundraiser? Partner?  Will donors be willing to fund the Longboat Key Foundation on its own?  Will anyone step into Ringling's shoes and agree to operate all aspects of the center at its own expense?  Will donor wallets have closed due to a political crisis, another recession or the tidal pull of $1 billion in other philanthropic projects seeking funds in our region?

     We don't know; but unfortunately, and unnecessarily, we will find out.  Timing is everything.

Ken Schneier

Longboat Key Town Commissioner



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