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Opinion
Sarasota Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017 3 years ago

Letters to the Editor: Sarasota 1.5.16

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Readers comment on topics including dogs in parks and downtown signage.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor
Why dogs need to be leashed

After reading the article, “Unleash the Hounds / Dog Days,” I felt compelled to respond.

I am an avid dog-lover and have had one as a family member most of my life. Although my dogs are well behaved, many others are not.

One beautiful, sunny day, I took my 13-pound Yorkie to Bayfront Park for a walk on his leash. Everything was fine for the first 15 minutes, with most dogs also on leashes.

Then I spotted a large dog off leash, bounding across the park with no owner in sight. I kept my eye on the dog for about five minutes, and then it happened. The dog saw my dog, and before I knew it, it was racing toward us.

I had to pick up my dog — over my head — and hold him there while I was yelling for someone to help. The large dog was jumping on me to get to my dog and was scratching me and pushing me back with his weight. My dog and I were both petrified.

In a couple minutes, a man slowly started wandering toward me while I was fighting off his dog. He said, “He is just a puppy. He’s not going to hurt you.” I kept telling him, while his dog was jumping on me, to “leash your dog.” His response was, “This is a dog park. I don’t need to leash him.”

Once the owner pulled the dog off me, I was covered in dirt and scratches. The owner was laughing. I immediately left the park, with my dog and me scared.

Dog owners like this have ruined the option of allowing our dogs to run free in areas. Who knows what would have happened to my dog if I hadn’t picked him up above my head? I know I was pretty beat up from “a puppy just playing.” What if I had been a child?

The reason we have to leash our dogs is not because of the dogs, but because of some of the owners.

Susan Tromley
Sarasota

Downtown sign proposal misses the mark

A recent Sarasota Observer article described a proposal by the Downtown Improvement District for “Downtown Sarasota” gateway signs on Main Street and Lemon Avenue. I strongly oppose installing these signs at these locations and hope to make the case against them.

First, think of the most memorable urban spaces of our nation: Back Bay or the North End in Boston, Dupont Circle in D.C., the delightful historic cores of Charleston and Savannah, the French Quarter in New Orleans or West Village in New York City. All are authentic, wonderfully built spaces that integrate so well into their surroundings that marking an artificial gateway would do a disservice to these neighborhoods. Robert Venturi, an influential architect and architectural theorist, observed that a built environment can be expressive and legible on its own visual and experiential terms without superimposing language-based signs. I argue that this is the standard Sarasota should strive to achieve, especially since our downtown is already approaching this caliber. We should therefore not create artificial boundaries with gateway signs which – as the ever-struggling downtown in Rochester, N.Y. plainly illustrates – provide no tangible economic development benefits.

Second, the proposed gateway signs would be a branding mistake. Downtown is far more than just Main Street and the Lemon Avenue mall; it also includes the Rosemary District (though not in the DID, it is still in the Downtown Community Redevelopment Area), Burns Court, Payne Park and the courtyard district, Golden Gate Point, the Bayfront and future Quay and the downtown edge west of Laurel Park. Downtown therefore has multiple entry points and neighborhood connections which we should not represent using only Main Street as metonymy. In a worst-case scenario, community groups opposing urban growth beyond the downtown core may yield these signs as a policy lever, claiming that they indicate where downtown begins and ends, and therefore where walkable urbanism “belongs.”

Third, the signs are being built with a misguided sense of whom they serve. Elsewhere, information from the DID made it clear that “drivers” are the target audience of the signs. Having studied historic and contemporary mobility politics, I am confident encouraging decision-makers to approach cautiously any plan supported with terms like “drivers,“ “pedestrians,” and “cyclists” as indications of who benefits from a project. These terms only crudely represent complex mobile experiences and create artificial categories which can misguide policy making; this is one of those cases. 

Indeed, we can easily infer that the “drivers” targeted are not people who live downtown, since the signs would provide a tautological experience. Rather, the targeted so-called “drivers” are people driving to downtown as a destination. Yet this distinction matters: During downtown’s busiest business hours, most visiting parties driving along Main Street are unlikely to find a suitable on-street parking spot there. After all, a central idea of downtown is that parking occurs at some distance from the front door of a destination, unlike the conventional suburban experience. Gateways, then, should not be installed in hopes of encouraging visitors to drive through Main Street as the channel from which to start looking for parking. 

Reaffirming the bias toward a driving-oriented urban experience counters the goal we have been working toward for the past decade and a half: creating an urban core with walking as the primary experience to cultivate. By misrepresenting the city’s vision for downtown as a holistic neighborhood, gateway signs present our core more as a playground and entertainment district rather than a collection of neighborhoods which balance community interaction, business growth and playful encounters and outings. I am confident that upwards of $150,000 has a much better application than signage which undermines our downtown’s identity on multiple fronts by blurring the legibility of its boundaries.

Patrick Braga
Sarasota

Carrier deal makes best of tough situation

In your recent editorial “So far, Trump has it right, except his stance on trade,” I would like to make some comments regarding the statements made in this piece.

You take Trump to task on his deal he worked out over the Carrier situation. You say that the deal will punish the taxpayers of the state of Indiana who will have to pay the tax breaks which Trump worked out with Carrier. The initial statement by Trump had it that the Carrier Corp. would have had to pay the 35 percent excise duty on any goods shipped from Mexico into the U.S. The increased prices would have had to be paid by U.S. consumers. Since the Carrier Corp. refused this application, it appears that the best solution was the one Trump suggested and which was applied.

The facts of the case go deeper: The 800 Carrier jobs that were saved by Trump have to take into account the income taxes our government would collect from the employed workers at Carrier. Also, the jobs saved are going to make Carrier employees and their families enjoy a merry Christmas instead of a dark period of unemployment which threatened all. Also, the jobs in Mexico which are lost, will hopefully teach the Mexicans that they cannot pilfer our jobs, because of their lower wages, ad infinitum.

I will agree that the deal was not ideal. However, the alternative was far less desirable. We have to be content with the deal Trump worked out with Carrier, and the future bodes more deals which will replicate this one. Whatever we as a nation do, punishing the folks who move to Mexico and elsewhere will, of necessity, punish someone. The idea of punishing Mexico and others will devolve on U.S. citizens, no matter what we do.

However, in the final analysis, we in the United States must act, or else all of our manufacturing jobs will flee to Mexico and other states. Let us therefore brace ourselves, and do whatever must be done to save our jobs! That, in the final analysis, is what Trump was doing here, and he should be supported and not excoriated.

Frank Meier
Osprey

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