In last week’s edition, we presented recommendations for the Aug. 26 primary for the Sarasota and Manatee counties’ school board races and the 12th Circuit Court Group 17 judgeship.
This week’s installment includes recommendations for the primaries involving the Sarasota Hospital District board, Sarasota County Charter Review Board and the statewide offices (governor and attorney general).
SARASOTA HOSPITAL DISTRICT
• CENTRAL SEAT 2: Joseph DeVirgilio (incumbent); Michael A. Sutphin
• NORTHERN SEAT 1: Stefan Butz; Richard Merritt (incumbent)
• NORTHERN SEAT 2: John “Jack” Brill; Robert K. Strasser (incumbent)
• SOUTHERN SEAT 1: David Garafalo; Darryl W. Henry (incumbent)
• SOUTHERN SEAT 2: Gregory Carter (incumbent); Lydia Tower
A few weeks ago, Sarasota’s political gossip channels erupted with breathless, crisis chatter that Hospital Corporation of America was funneling $30,000 per candidate to a slate of candidates who would help HCA convert Sarasota Memorial Hospital from a public hospital to a private hospital.
Suffice it to say, it was titillating gossip, but the possibility of that actually occurring is akin to the Chicago Cubs winning a World Series.
With that issue put to rest, there is not much else in the way of controversies or incumbent board members’ performances that creates much drama for the five hospital board seats.
You could argue credibly, as does challenger Michael Sutphin for the Central Seat 2, that the board has tended to be too unquestioning of management and that the board could do more to let voters know why its $46 million a year in property-tax collections is justified.
And while the five board challengers deserve consideration and respect for running for this office, we are choosing not to devote space to showing the differences between the candidates. Here’s why:
Sarasota Memorial Health Care System is operating as well as it ever has in the past quarter century. This is a testament to strong operating leadership and competent board oversight.
Recommendation: Joseph DeVirgilio; Richard Merritt; Robert K. Strasser; Darryl W. Henry; Gregory Carter
SARASOTA CHARTER REVIEW BOARD
Sarasota County’s elected Charter Review Board is an odd duck in Florida government. It’s the only elected charter review board.
As such, at various times in the board’s history, individuals and groups have attempted to gain control of the board to engage in political shenanigans and power plays. Some, for instance, have tried to change the board’s bylaws to give it more power outside of its mission.
One former member, for instance, thought the charter board’s role should be that of a watchdog over the County Commission. He maintained a front-row, reserved seat at all County Commission meetings to serve as the charter review board’s self-appointed watchdog over the County Commission.
In truth, that’s not the mission of the charter review board. Its job is quite narrow: It reviews and proposes changes to the Sarasota County Charter. And there is a detailed process for that.
But that’s all it is supposed to do.
It’s not visible; it’s not exciting; nor does it have any authority in policy making in the county. And yet, it’s important to select the right candidates. If voters are not careful, a cabal of charter review board members could turn it into a political tool.
In that vein, there are two charter review board races on the Republican ballot Aug. 26. The winners will face opponents in the general election in November.
DISTRICT 1: Paul Cajka Sr.; Steven R. Fields (incumbent)
This one is a conundrum.
Paul Cajka Sr. has been a resident of Sarasota since 1999 and is employed at Publix Super Markets. He ran for a Charter Review seat two years ago.
Cajka is well-intended. But when you talk to him about what he sees as the role of the charter review board, he says:
“I want to make it possible [in the county] for growth, opportunity and prosperity … less restrictive for property rights. But I don’t want the charter to be like the state constitution — to become a three-ring notebook.”
Translation: He would like the charter review board to do more than what its mission requires.
His opponent, incumbent Steven Fields, current chair of the board, makes some charter review board members nervous. While he is adamant about keeping an elected charter review board, Fields is active.
After he appointed a standing bylaws committee to review the board’s bylaws at the committee’s first meeting, he was the only member to show up with proposed changes to the bylaws. We were told Fields proposed 43 changes. Fields says it was only 11.
One those proposals included deleting from the bylaws the following criterion for considering amendments to the charter: “Amendments should avoid usurping the Board of County Commission’s authority.”
Fields says he proposed that at the request of a voter.
Fields knows how the system works. Cajka would need to learn.
To be on the charter review board, one of the litmus tests should be: “Do no harm.” While Cajka wants to make policy changes, his ideas would go nowhere. If elected, he could do the least damage.
Recommendation: Paul Cajka Sr.
DISTRICT 5: Bruce Dillon; Brian Slider
Bruce Dillon is the standout candidate in this race. A 1970 Venice High graduate and resident of Nokomis, Dillon has a long history of community involvement on county advisory boards — president of the Friends of Legacy Trail and Friends of Sarasota County Parks; board member of the Nokomis Area Civic Association; past chair of the Nokomis Revitalization Advisory Committee; and more.
Asked if the charter review board should be more active in changing the charter, he says: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Recommendation: Bruce Dillon
OBSERVER PRIMARY RECOMMENDATIONS
Circuit Judge Group 17 — Susan Maulucci
School Board District 2 — Rodney Jones
School Board District 4 — Karen Carpenter
School Board District 5 — Julie Aranibar
Circuit Judge Group 17 — Susan Maulucci
School Board District 1 — Ken Marsh or Bridget Ziegler
School Board District 4 — Shirley Brown
School Board District 5 — Jane Goodwin
County Commission District 2 — Paul Caragiulo
County Commission District 4 — Alan Maio
Hospital District Central Seat 2 — Joseph DeVirgilio
Hospital District Northern Seat 1 — Richard Merritt
Hospital District Northern Seat 2 — Robert K. Strasser
Hospital District Southern Seat 1 — Darryl Henry
Hospital District Southern Seat 2 — Gregory Carter
Charter Review Board District 1 — Paul Cajka Sr.
Charter Review Board District 5 — Bruce Dillon
Governor — Rick Scott
Governor — Nan Rich (see YourObserver.com for Rich-Charlie Crist race)
Attorney General — George Sheldon
What the Media Hasn't Told You About Hamas
Over the past two weeks, members of the American Jewish Committee, an international human-rights organization, have received briefings from AJC’s Jerusalem director on Israel’s war with Hamas, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge.
If only the world knew and would believe what is true.
Here are some of the statistics on the rockets fired by Hamas militants from Gaza, according to Israel Defense Forces, as of Aug. 6:
• 3,356 rockets fired at Israel
• 2,303 rockets hit Israel
• 356 intended at IDF forces operating in Gaza
• 116 hit populated areas in Israel
• 578 were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome
• 475 landed within the Gaza strip
• 597 rockets were launched from civilian facilities:
• Approximately 260 launched from Gaza schools
• Approximately 127 launched from cemeteries
• Approximately 160 launched from religious sites (mosques)
• Approximately 50 launched from hospitals
• 3,000 rockets remain in Hamas’ stockpile
Other details we haven’t heard:
• Hamas pays Gaza residents not to leave their homes during the bombings.
• After Israel drove to the Gaza-Israel border early in the conflict to deliver medical supplies to Palestinians, Hamas refused to let the deliveries cross the border.
• Hamas has prevented Palestinians from receiving medical help at an Israeli hospital Israelis set up on the Israel-Gaza border.
• Israel has delivered 40,000 tons of humanitarian supplies to Gaza in 1,856 trucks.
• Journalists have told Israeli officials Hamas threatens to kill journalists in Gaza if they show Hamas militants firing rockets or rocket-launching locations.
• “The top message is this,” said AJC Jerusalem chief, Avital Leibovich, “This phenomenon (Islamic terrorism) is at your doorstep. It’s worldwide.” — Editor