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Sarasota Thursday, Sep. 10, 2009 8 years ago

Our View


The words that come out of Sarasota City Commissioner Fredd Atkins are almost always amazing, typically cynical and often insulting. But Monday night, as he voiced his support for the Unconditional
Surrender statue, he voiced an appropriate irony:

“We’ve been trying to get people (to the bayfront) for 40 years. We get something that does, and half of you are against it.”

Such is the bipolar personality of Sarasota. It seems everything becomes a laborious ordeal.

Here’s another one: parking meters. Last month, city commissioners voted to install parking meters downtown. Monday, after two weeks of confusion among city staffers over what the commissioners really wanted to do with parking meters, commissioners backpedaled. Now they’re going to have parking meter workshops.

Good thing the commissioners don’t have to make decisions over whether to go to war. We’d all be dead by the time the debate ended.

In any event, at least a majority of commissioners voted 3-2 in favor of moving forward to craft an agreement with Jack Curran, the World War II veteran who wants to buy “Unconditional Surrender” and donate it to the city for display on the bayfront for a decade.

The two dissenting votes came from Commissioners Terry Turner and Suzanne Atwell. The latter said she objected to “the process” involved with the statue, saying she felt Curran held the city hostage by his unwillingness to compromise on a different location for the statue. Atwell said she supported having the statue in the city, just not on the bayfront.

Turner, as he is wont to do (and someone on the commission should be this way), opposed the deal on fiscal grounds. “It’s a bad fiscal risk,” he said. Turner thinks the city will be exposed to future costs — perhaps copyright lawsuits and maintenance costs, among others, that are too great.

As they say: The devil is in the details.

In other words, the commission’s Monday night approval was a first step. Commissioner Kelly Kirschner was explicit with City Attorney Robert Fournier in saying he would support keeping the statue on the bayfront (not his preferred location) with the proviso that the city and taxpayers be indemnified against any risks or future costs.

Fournier must now negotiate and draft a contract with Curran that satisfies both sides.

And knowing Sarasota as we all do, this is far from a done deal. At least it’s moving in the right direction.

+ Special-event ‘fee-asco’
Sarasota City Manager Robert Bartolotta knew he was swatting a hornet’s nest earlier this year when he suggested the city begin imposing fees to process permit requests for special events.

A few of those hornets surfaced Monday night when St. Armands Circle Association representatives asked the City Commission for relief from the permitting fees. The group had valid points. Two of our favorites: 1) St. Armands Cirlce property owners and merchants pay some of the highest taxes in the city — and now they’re being “dinged” for special-event permit fees? 2) St. Armands draws more tourism (and sales-tax revenue) than any other retail district in the city — and now it’s being “dinged” for permit fees?
Bartolotta said the City Commission will discuss the issue in two weeks.

This issue arose earlier this year when Bartolotta said he wanted to impose the fees to balance the budget without layoffs. What’s more, as a result of Sarasota County instituting permit fees for special events, various groups shifted their activities to the city, where permits were free. Bartolotta said 358 special-event permits last year cost the city $220,000 in man-hours. That’s $41 an hour to process permits. Looks like there’s still room to cut the budget.

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