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Arts and Entertainment Tuesday, May 22, 2012 10 years ago

Special Events: Mutually Agreeable?

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by: Anthony Paull

The Special Meeting of the Sarasota City Commission meeting scheduled for May 24, 2012 to discuss zoning enclaves and special events has been rescheduled for Wednesday, June 6, 2012 at City Hall at 3 p.m.

According to a press release signed by Public Information Officer Jan Thornburg, the meeting’s discussion "will center on developing a mutually agreeable special events plan for downtown merchants, residents and the City.” The release further states, “The city commission has no intention of banning special events in Selby Five Points Park.”

Still, the question remains: Why is there a need to call a "special" meeting to develop a "mutually agreeable" plan for the use of Sarasota’s public parks and spaces right now? Who is in disagreement to the current permit process and existing restrictions?  Street closures require two-thirds of property owners' agreement in addition to approvals from city engineering, police and fire departments---plus fees, deposits and proof of insurance. The process may be cumbersome, but it has been working.

During a city meeting on May 21, Commissioner Terry Turner stated, "To my knowledge neither the Commission nor staff has made any proposal about eliminating events in Five Points." No one has suggested that the City Commission is making such a proposal, but isn’t it part of their job to entertain the conversation if requested?

In a recent TWIS article, I leaked information from an anonymous source stating a small group that exists in Sarasota is actively attempting to ban the use of Five Points Park for special events. However, I should have added is that it is not only the future of Five Points Park that is threatened, but other city parks as well. According to the source, this small group of individuals also seeks to ban such activities as alcohol consumption at any special events.

So who are the members of this small active group? Are they condo owners in the units closest to Five Points Park? Are they retirees who don’t want to stand for the noise and foot traffic associated with such events as Thunder By The Bay and the Harvey Milk Festival? Or are they in little pockets scattered everywhere across the city? I’m certain the truth lies somewhere in between.

In the last 24 hours, I’ve had various emails and reports from locals stating that certain City Commission members are upset about my article. My response: Deal with it. It’s my job as a journalist, blogger and citizen to inform the public when I feel the rights of the residents are being threatened. Too many people were unknowledgeable of proceedings leading to the Five Points bench debacle. The result: no benches. I can’t allow that to happen again, not with all the wonderful events beginning to shape the city.

Still, if the Commission is upset, I’ll gladly take the call for clarification about what was so special about the May 24th "Special Events" meeting. Unfortunately, I have yet to have a call returned. I understand. The Commission is busy. Good thing the public is too. TWIS has gathered over 600 signatures in support of keeping the city parks alive with entertainment. So far, the result of this latest round of debate over the use of public spaces is that a large number of people have expressed their support for downtown events. I hope the Commissioners recognize the will of the majority and remain true to their word.

Anthony Paull is a syndicated columnist, author and filmmaker. His debut novel Outtakes of a Walking Mistake is available now.

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