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Richard Dorfman is a former District 1 City Commission candidate.
Sarasota Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012 5 years ago

My View: Keep your hands off downtown, dummies!

by: Richard Dorfman

I often ponder the question: “Are people born stupid, or is this something that requires constant cultivation and practice?”

The only conclusion I can come, to based on a great deal of practical research in life’s rich tapestry, is that some people are born with an unfortunate lack of inherent intelligence and are victims of the draw or just bad genes.

But the great majority of those whom I view as lacking in even a modicum of common sense have developed this characteristic over a lifetime of dubious thought processes and decisions.

Case in point: Why do some people feel it is necessary to keep messing with our beautiful, but limited downtown/Main Street area?

We have a group of initials, DID, DSA, CCNA, STP, CIA, CRAP, TARP, ad nauseum, that claims to represent and have the best interests of Sarasota’s downtown, uptown, Newtown and Dogtown in our community, but for whatever reason, some of these seem to have an inadequate grasp of the obvious. To wit: It’s a never-ending struggle to maintain a viable business in our downtown shopping area, and those that are making the courageous effort to do so need to be handled carefully, loved, nurtured and cherished.

Instead, the businesses get hit by one body blow after another.

First, they had to deal with the horrid economy of the past four years. Those that survived did so through initiative, smarts, a loyal customer base and a bit of good old-fashioned Southern ingenuity.

Next, they had to contend with a masterstroke of urban planning in the form of parking meters. Clearly, that experiment has been a disaster, with usage about 50% of what was anticipated. (Don’t even get me started on the “S.S. Travesty”: the Palm Avenue garage.) Yet, both of these ill-conceived and poorly thought-out objects of non-desire remain. Thank you, commissioners. You had a chance to get rid of the meters last week but managed to trip over your own pay-stations.)

The best part of the parking fiasco/equation is the fact that certain members of city government contend that we need the meters to fund the city’s parking program. Duh. If you don’t have the program, you don’t need to fund it. (Am I nuts here?)

Now we have another group of brain surgeons telling us we should try parallel parking on Main Street. I’m quite convinced they are on psychedelic drugs with this one. Can you imagine members of our aged population trying to parallel park on a busy evening in the dark?

Now the justification for this is that it would provide more room for the restaurants to have tables outside — as would our other recent urban exploration — widened sidewalks and brick paving. Putting aside the fact that these suggestions might help our eating places’ bottom lines, conversely, it would potentially hurt other non-dining establishments on Main Street, by removing needed parking spaces.

I would love to see the time come when our sidewalks are overcrowded with shoppers and diners knocking each other over to patronize our great downtown offerings. Until then, cool it.

Folks, get a grip. It’s difficult enough to make a go of it in Sarasota without having a bunch of quasi-urban planning geniuses, with no experience in operating a shop or restaurant, coming up with grandiose ideas that will turn Sarasota into Asheville, Lincoln Road in Miami or Paris. It just ain’t gonna “woik.”

I like downtown the way it is — a little bit funky, a bit old school and a little bit frayed around the edges. All of these characteristics spell “personality” — something we are blessed with in abundance in our beautiful city.

Keep your hands off downtown. It will change and conform as market conditions dictate — if we let it, of course. Meanwhile, just enjoy the fruits of some other people’s very hard-fought efforts.

Richard Dorfman is a former District 1 City Commission candidate. He says it is likely he will run again.

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