Skip to main content
Sarasota Thursday, Sep. 9, 2010 7 years ago

OUR VIEW: Local boy makes good


Everyone loves that headline. And everyone loves to see stories of achievement like that of Mikel Hollaway, the city of Sarasota’s new police chief.

Smart, level-headed, humble. A man of integrity. These are the characteristics ascribed to Hollaway, who grew up on the north side of Sarasota, the son of a concrete worker and nurse-turned-beautician. Humble beginnings. Deep roots here. Solid values.

This is what every city wants in its police chief.

On the day he was appointed chief last Friday no one knew more than Hollaway the new burdens on his shoulders. It is one thing to rise to the top of your profession, your company or your police department, it’s another to carry out the responsibilities that go with that achievement.

Hollaway will soon experience all of the challenges of leadership — the pressures from the multiple constituencies demanding time and attention at the same time; the internal challenges of managing and leading a large group of people, each of whom has issues and ambitions that can and often disrupt an organization’s success; the challenges of satisfying the political influences that, inevitably, will continue to dog the Sarasota Police Department; and the day-to-day challenges of confronting and trying to prevent, control and stop criminal activity that can be so devastating to a family, neighborhood or community.

This will be Hollaway’s biggest career test. But if Hollaway’s past is an indication of his future, Sarasota residents should have confidence that Hollaway will work hard, do what is right and imbue his officers to be honorable public servants and protectors of peace.

We all want the headline to remain the same: Local boy makes good.

+ Turner on the right course
Sarasota City Commissioner Terry Turner, Ph.D., is clearly the smartest person sitting on the City Commission. And quiet though he is, he also thinks in great depth about the issues facing the commission. Rare is the instance when Turner will blurt from the dais with a kneejerk, emotional reaction.

We say all that as a prelude to noting that Turner is heading in the right direction with his recent proposals to the Sarasota City Charter Review Committee. Turner sent the committee members a six-page memo detailing changes he is advocating to the city charter.

The primary goal: Get the city commissioners out of the irresistible and irresponsible behavior of injecting themselves into the day-to-day management of City Hall and keep them focused on what they are elected to be: a board of directors that sets policy. Turner puts this more succinctly in his memo to the charter committee, calling it “the failure of individual commissioners to appreciate and respect the separation of the policy function and the executive function.”

Likewise Turner addresses another obstacle to an effective city government: the fact the city has three independent charter officials — city manager, city attorney and city auditor. As Turner notes, given the turnover and inexperience that often occurs through commission elections, this setup results in “three independent administrative officers reporting to five inexperienced commissioners … It is inefficient, and it has tended to promote unproductive and undesirable competition among the charter officials.”

Turner’s ideas certainly deserve an airing and the backing of residents and the business community. His suggestions certainly would improve what is now dysfunctional. Our one lament, and it’s not a criticism of Turner, is that he didn’t go far enough. We still believe the only way to get true leadership in Sarasota is to have an elected CEO-mayor. But certainly Turner’s ideas are better than what the city has now.

+ Give Wal-Mart a call
Sarasota Mayor Kelly Kirschner inquired this week at a City Commission meeting whether there was anything the city could do to halt the pending shuttering of the Winn-Dixie supermarket on North Tamiami Trail.

City Manager Bob Bartolotta pretty much said no. If Winn-Dixie were proposing to expand, there is all kinds of government tax-subsidy money to throw at the grocery chain. But for a failing business, well, that kind of help only goes to GM, Chrysler, AIG and the friends of Timothy Geithner, Hank Paulson and Barack Obama.

Bartolotta said Winn-Dixie officials have said that store is losing about $300,000 a year, and with fewer and fewer Winn-Dixies serving this part of the state, it was inevitable the Jacksonville-based corporation would determine that store not to be viable economically.

So the surrounding neighbors and neighborhoods are fretting. They know what another vacant storefront will mean, and it’s not good.

We can’t help but think back now to 2007 when Wal-Mart officials wanted to build a new store on U.S. 301 just east of Newtown. In spite of Wal-Mart’s intentions to build a store that would employ a couple hundred local residents and build where it would have cleaned up a contaminated site, Wal-Mart received a less-than-welcoming reception from various corners of Newtown and City Hall.

Wal-Mart pulled out.

Now here we are — no Wal-Mart, no Winn-Dixie, no store close to Newtown.

Supermarket chains go where there are residential rooftops with money and where they can make a profit. Given the losses at Winn-Dixie, it’s a longshot for another national chain to fill the void. It must be economically attractive. But to achieve that, clearly the cost of operation must go down. Perhaps that site can be declared an enterprise zone, where the real estate taxes can be reduced and other government burdens can be set aside, providing at least some incentive for another operator to give it a try.

This is a common conundrum in every urban community. The marketplace is telling a business its goods and services are not competitive. Not enough consumers are finding a beneficial exchange for goods and services.

The business faces a dilemma: If it invests more capital to improve the products and services — i.e., more variety of product; cleaner, better displays; name-brand products — would that capital generate enough customers to recoup the investment? Or would the investment require the business to raise prices so the business once again is less economical than its competitors?

Every business owner knows the old saw: You can never make up in volume what you give away in discounts.

Clearly, Winn-Dixie has determined that additional capital is not worth the risk; it would be more profitable to invest that capital elsewhere.

That leaves the property in need of a new use.

Here is where the creative mind of the property owner and creativity of capitalism must go to work. Start with this: What need needs to be filled in the market?

If you have an answer, let us know.

Meantime, we have a suggestion for Mayor Kirschner: Perhaps it’s time to call Wal-Mart and invite it back. The barriers to building are much lower and less expensive. Do what should have been done before: Welcome Wal-Mart like a long lost relative.


Related Stories