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Sarasota Friday, Mar. 29, 2019 3 years ago

Really? Straws take priority over pensions?

Sarasota City Commission has its priorities wrong.
by: Matt Walsh Editor & CEO

Call us cynical, but we can’t help but be amused and puzzled at what surfaces to the top of the priority list in Sarasota City Hall.

Banning plastic straws? 

Banning polystyrene containers?

Are these overwhelming urgent crises?

Ok, we get it. Everyone in Sarasota … well, let’s say most everyone is an environmentalist. We all care about Sarasota’s environment. It’s one of the best parts of living here. And by and large, we have a clean city, certainly compared to places in China, New Jersey, Philadelphia, New York City.

So you can understand how there will be constant efforts to improve and keep what we have. To that end, the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program stands as an illustration of that. Since 1989, it has made great strides at improving the bay’s water quality. And what other places do you know that have a Save Our Seabirds hospital or teams of Turtle Watchers?

Nevertheless, are we the only ones who tend to think Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin and city commissioners are more concerned about straw pollution and climate change than they are about managing tax-payers’ money? 

We’ll never get over the $15 million Bobby Jones Gold Club renovation decision. Commissioners have yet to address pension reform. The city manager has talked about creating a special taxing district for parks. And looming large is the $500 million question: How will the new Bay park and a new performing arts centers be financed?

Far less cynical people probably would credit City Manager Barwin for creating a sustainability department. Yes, credit him for looking ahead and forward thinking. And you can’t argue against the desired benefits of the sustainability department’s programs: 

  • Lead a climate change vulnerability assessment and adaptation plan
  • Perform recycling education for businesses
  • Support renewable energy and energy efficiency efforts
  • Track greenhouse gas emissions community-wide and within city operations
  • Manage the Community Canopy (a free tree give-away) program
  • Support the reduction of single-use plastics
  • Support community composting efforts
  • Support efforts that increase walkability, bikeability, public transportation use, and electric vehicles
  • Coordinate with other local organizations on regional sustainability projects
  • Support living shorelines and environmentally friendly seawalls

But from the old-school perspective of the role of government (safe streets, good roads, water and sewers), you know where these sustainability efforts ultimately will go: They’ll get bigger, more expansive, more intrusive and more costly to everyone.

A sustainable environment is all about finding the right balance. And setting the right priorities. When we look at the list of items found most often on the coasts, straws are sixth, foam containers 10th.

Smokers and drinkers, beware. You’ll be next.

Fixing unsustainable pension plans apparently don’t rate.

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