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Sarasota Thursday, May. 15, 2014 3 years ago

Our View


When property owners pay their property taxes, part of the unspoken understanding is a portion of that money will cover the cost of police.

But as we also have seen in modern society, given all of the demands taxpayers place on their governments beyond police and fire protection, clean streets and garbage pickup, there never seems to be enough money to cover everyone’s expectations. Gaps in public services always occur.

This is why citizens take it upon themselves — rightfully — to fill in the gaps. And this is why downtown Sarasota merchants are resorting to investing their own funds and a portion of a special tax on themselves (the Downtown Improvement District tax) to pay for increased security patrols.

The vagrancy problem downtown is simply becoming too intolerable. And it’s hurting the businesses — not to mention downtown Sarasota’s image.

We applaud the downtown merchants for taking the initiative to solve their own problem. But at the same time, the increased problems with vagrants — many of whom trespass on private property — make you think about incentives and the connection between crime and punishment.

Everyone, including vagrants, responds to incentives and disincentives. It’s a fact: When the punishment for a crime is severe, crime goes down. City commissioners might think about that in the context of vagrancy. That could save the merchants a lot of trouble and money.

+ Paragon makes a point
As the saying goes, we’ll eat crow.

The predicted Armegeddon didn’t occur. No one died in a traffic jam. In fact, there were no traffic jams.
In spite of the objections from the St. Armands Circle Association, St. Armands Residents Association and St. Armands Landowners Association, the Paragon Fine Art Festival on St. Armands Circle the weekend after Easter occurred with nary an operational hitch — in fact, none that we’ve been able to discern from conversations with St. Armands merchants, city officials and a longtime art-show exhibitor who participated in the Paragon show.

As you may recall, there was quite the hubbub over Paragon Art Festival owner Bill Kinney’s seeking to put on one of his shows on the Circle in March — at the height of season. A representative of the St. Armands Residents Association protested to City Hall. Permitting a show in March or April could be disastrous — traffic that could inhibit public safety; disruption in the surrounding neighbors’ streets; and competing with St. Armands retailers at their most crucial money-making time.

What’s more, permitting the show in March or April was alleged to be violating a long-standing blackout period that extended from Jan. 1 through Easter.

This column likewise took the position that Sarasota city officials shifted their previous practices and agreement with three St. Armands associations and broke a trust.

The City Commission, nonetheless, permitted Kinney’s show to be held, but scheduled it for the weekend after Easter, just outside the blackout period.

Lo and behold, the show was a success — without incident, without swarming crowds or backed-up traffic, without disrupting the Circle’s merchants.

When we spoke to Shoshana Matthews, a 20-year exhibitor at art shows all over the country, she called it “a great show.”

Matthews said she was skeptical when she signed up to exhibit, knowing the show was occurring at the end of Season and that it was a first-time show.

But to her surprise and pleasure, the show was a pleasant experience the whole weekend. With only 83 exhibitors (not even half the number of other St. Armands festivals), the show was contained within St. Armands Park and didn’t spill into the streets. She called it relaxed.

Still, Matthews said, the crowds were steady all weekend, and they were buyers, not just lookers.

“I saw packages being carried all weekend,” Matthews said.

A regular reviewer of shows for Sunshine Artist magazine, a leading trade publications for art festivals, Matthews dubbed the show “well done.”

For Kinney, owner of Paragon, the outcome delivered proof there is room for more than one art-festival promoter on St. Armands Circle. For 25 years, Howard Alan Events has produced an art festival in November on St. Armands Circle, and for the past 10 years, it has produced a similar show in January — both with the support of the St. Armands Circle Association.

That long-standing relationship made it tough for Kinney. When he recently spoke to us, he said all he wants is fair treatment.

If you read the reviews in the art-festival blogosphere of Kinney’s shows — in Sarasota and elsewhere; when you talk to Paragon exhibitors; and when Kinney tells you how art festivals must be symbiotic with the local brick-and-mortar merchants and restaurants, you can conclude there’s substance, knowledge and wisdom in this 20-plus-year veteran of art shows. This is no fly-by-nighter. He deserves, and has earned, fair treatment.

When city officials and St. Armands interests reconvene to address the rules governing the use of St. Armands Cicle Park, Kinney, now a Siesta Key resident, should have a seat at the table.

+ Don’t do it
Marco Rubio’s ego is like the devil sitting on his shoulder, whispering temptations in his ear, egging him on.

He needs an exorcist.

He shouldn’t run for president — not yet. He’s not ready.

When we first heard then-Florida Speaker Rubio speak extemporaneously in 2007 at the Sarasota Tiger Bay Club, we wrote: “He should be governor.”

When we heard him speak in 2009 in his bid for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate against Charlie Crist, you couldn’t help but be smitten: This guy has the gift — the right philosophy, the right ideas and an special eloquence and common sense that didn’t sound like a manufactured, platitudinous politician. He was real. He made sense.

He amazed his Florida legislative colleagues. Elected to the Florida House in 2000 at age 29; speaker in 2006 at 35; now a freshman U.S. senator at 43. And a Republican media darling on the national stage.

But all of this appears to be going to his head. Ever since he was elected to the Senate, Rubio has spent a lot of time traveling the country on the speaking circuit. Go to his tweets on Twitter, and you’ll see the senator delivering the weekly GOP address on the radio; speaking in New Hampshire one day; talking at the D.C. press club the next.

And you have to wonder about a freshman U.S. senator who has established his own political action committee, Reclaim America. Its website’s photos are an homage to Marco.

While we’d like to see Rubio elected president one day, now is not the time. Dare we say, while he has been an eloquent and forceful advocate for most of the right issues so far (except immigration), the young senator’s signature legislative accomplishments so far remind us of another young, unaccomplished U.S. senator who was interested in only two things: himself and becoming president.

And we’ve all learned the hard way: He wasn’t ready or qualified for the office.

If Rubio were as smart as we think he is, he might follow a path somewhat similar to that of another great Florida politician, the late Gov. Lawton Chiles.

Like Rubio, Chiles started his political career in the Legislature, serving 12 years in the state House and Senate. Then he spent 18 years in the U.S. Senate, retiring in 1989.

Chiles came out of retirement and was elected governor in 1990, serving two terms.

Rubio would be smart to serve a couple terms in the U.S. Senate; come back to Florida to run for governor and earn some executive experience; and then make the run for the presidency.

He has the right stuff. He just needs to listen to someone other than his ego.

“We will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed.”

Remember that vow? That was Barack Obama May 2, 2011, after the death of Osama bin Laden.

But still on the lam:

• The Benghazi killers;

• Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s No. 2 leader under bin Laden;

• Mullah Omar, head of the Taliban in Afghanistan when bin Laden plotted 9-11;

• Nasir al-Wuhayshi, bin Laden’s personal aide;

• Haydar Zammar, recruiter of 9-11 terrorists.


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