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Longboat Key Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009 10 years ago

Our View


Forget that Longboat Key has this $28 million unfunded pension liability. We’ve got Town Commission term limits burning holes in our pockets.

Priorities, you know.

We are referring to the town of Longboat Key’s term-limits law, which restricts town commissioners to three consecutive terms.

At Monday night’s Town Commission meeting, commissioners are expected to adopt a resolution revising the law to allow Mayor Lee Rothenberg to run for re-election.

Rothenberg began serving in the District 1 seat in October 2004, after being appointed to fill the vacant seat of Commissioner Ken Legler, who resigned. As required by charter, Rothenberg was to stand for election the following spring, March 2005.

But, because that year was an off-year, mid-term election for District 1, Rothenberg was elected for only a one-year term before being required in 2006 to stand for election again.

And there’s the rub. Look at this snapshot of Rothenberg’s terms:

• Appointed, October 2004
• Elected, March 2005, term: 2005-2006
• Elected, March 2006, term: 2006-2008
• Elected, March 2008, term: 2008-2010.

By next spring, Rothenberg will have served three consecutive terms — depending, of course, on how you interpret the charter. In the strictest sense, he will have reached the town’s term limits.

But, unlike other commissioners, Rothenberg will have served only five years, not six. (Actually, he will have served five-and-a-half years.)

Vice Mayor Bob Siekmann says there’s a matter of fairness here. Commissioner George Spoll, for example, was appointed to the commission in District 2 in December 2004, two months after Rothenberg. When Spoll was required to stand for election the following March, he ran for a full two-year term. His race was a not a one-year, mid-term election as was Rothenberg’s.

This means Spoll will have served six years and three months by the time he hits the term limit.

OK, maybe it’s not “fair.” The “three-consecutive-terms” provision can short-change some commissioners. That would justify changing the law — from hereafter.

But cynics that we are, there may be another agenda at work here: Who will be Longboat Key’s next mayor?

If Rothenberg cannot run for re-election and is replaced by likely candidates Lee Pokoik or Lynn Larson, bets are on for Commissioner Spoll winning the mayoral sweepstakes. But if Rothenberg can run and is re-elected, in all likelihood, the mayoral sweepstakes will go to Vice Mayor Siekmann. Rothenberg is the swing vote.

+ Remember Pearl Harbor
Monday, Dec. 7, will mark the 68th anniversary of the “Day of Infamy” — the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the event that triggered an epochal shift in America’s social and economic future.

It used to be on Longboat Key there were many World War II veterans who could speak in great detail about the events of that day. None was more vivid in his recollections than the late Gen. James Edmundson, who was at Ground Zero at Hickam Field among the many performing heroic acts.

Those numbers — from our Greatest Generation — are shrinking fast. And it’s a great loss. To hear first-hand recollections from the voices of 80-year-olds who lived it is always moving.

Woody Wolverton, a Longboat Key resident, didn’t fight on Pearl Harbor those 68 years ago; he is not a World War II veteran. He was only 7 at the time, but he was there, living with his parents and younger brother at Schofield Barracks on Oahu, a defense installation for Pearl Harbor.

Wolverton was the first in his family to see the attack. “I was looking out my bedroom window, looking down the barrel of a gun on a Japanese Zero,” Wolverton told us this week. “I could see bullets digging up the ground in front me.”

He ran to his parents’ bedroom to wake them. His father, an artillery captain, skedaddled to the base. Wolverton, his mother and brother were shuttled to a basement, where they huddled for 15 hours. At midnight, soldiers loaded them on a bus that had been splashed with black paint for camouflage. They were carted to a school in the Oahu mountains. As they drove by Pearl Harbor, Wolverton recalls his mother saying: “If we live, you’re seeing history.”

Wolverton, his mother and brother lived for the next 14 days at the school with hundreds of Schofield’s dependents, sleeping on grass mats and subsisting on fruit. “We thought that’s all we were going to have the rest of our lives,” Wolverton says.

“The thing I remember about that day,” Wolverton says, “is the lack of organization. We were unprepared.
Everybody was in a state of shock.”

Dec. 7, Sept. 11 — never forget.

Key Club vote
When the Longboat Key Planning and Zoning Board gathers at 9 a.m. Friday, Dec. 4, at Temple Beth Israel, let’s hope it has a singular purpose: to conduct a final vote on the Longboat Key Club and Resort’s proposed redevelopment and expansion plan.

A final vote is crucial. To delay by becoming mired in what is sure to be a long list of controversial stipulations from the town planning staff easily could jeopardize the chances for the project to make it through the Town Commission before next March’s Town Commission elections.

Be focused, planning board. Act as though this is the final deadline.   

+ Dreams come true
Normally, this is verboten in The Longboat Observer — bragging about the family. But we’re exercising publisher’s prerogative here to highlight one of those occasional instances of “dreams do come true” and “local girl makes good.”

Our middle child, Kate Walsh Honea, will perform as the Sugar Plum Fairy in Sarasota Ballet’s Friday and Saturday night performances of “The Nutcracker” at the Sarasota Opera House.

For almost every little girl who puts on a tutu, this is a dream come true. Kate dreamed of this when she saw Miami City Ballet’s “Nutrcracker” at age 7 at Ruth Eckerd Hall, in Clearwater.

Ballet has been her life ever since.

It’s a long journey. Many tears; bloody, gnarled toes; more rejection and disappointments than triumphs; lousy pay.

Kate joined Sarasota Ballet as an unpaid apprentice in 1997, when she was a sophomore at Booker High School. She left Booker before her senior year to attend Pittsburgh Ballet Theater School.

She lived in a home with a single mom, her three kids and six other bunheads. The bunheads would catch a city bus to ballet class every morning at 6 a.m., take another bus to the public high school for academic classes from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., then catch another bus back to ballet from 2 to 7 p.m., often later; and a final bus home for a late dinner and homework. These were 16-year-old girls on their own.

Kate graduated with honors  from Shenley High School, in Pittsburgh. Never having time for much else but ballet, she didn’t have her first date until age 17 — to the senior prom.

After another year with Pittsburgh Ballet, Kate joined Sarasota Ballet in 2001.

Ballet teachers have told us Kate wasn’t blessed with natural ballet gifts. She has worked at everything. And, step by step, she has moved up the company’s ballet ladder, reaching principal this season. Kate is the company’s longest-tenured member — 10 years.

It’s fun when Sarasota Ballet attendees tell us they’ve been watching Kate all these years. They see her as the company’s local, homegrown girl.

For all those grandparents and parents who have aspiring little ballerinas in tutus, this year’s Sugar Plum Fairy is a storybook lesson: If you work at it hard enough, you can — and will — make your dreams come true.                
— MW

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