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Sarasota Thursday, May. 19, 2011 6 years ago

State of the City: Challenges lie ahead

by: Robin Roy City Editor

As is tradition during the appointment of a new mayor, the outgoing mayor delivers his State of the City address.

But, unlike previous years, the message was a serious one.

“There was much conversation with our Charter Review Committee, with a concern that (the address) concentrated too much on fluff and not enough on substance,” said former Mayor Kelly Kirschner.

This year’s State of the City May 13 highlighted achievements from the previous 12 months and challenges to come in the next year.

Kirschner emphasized what the city administration believes is one of the biggest obstacles ahead — rising pension costs.

The city trotted out figures that project the next fiscal year will be the first in Sarasota’s history that pension obligations will cost more than tax revenue will generate.

“The current system is clearly unsustainable,” Kirschner said.

Unions have previously dismissed those claims as propaganda.

Kirschner also discussed the city’s ever-tightening budget.

“We can’t burden already-strapped homeowners with new taxes,” he said. “The new commission will be burdened with this.”

The constant themes of the address were the challenges facing the new City Commission, which included pensions, the budget and redeveloping Newtown.

“Revitalization goes beyond new (building) facades,” said Kirschner, who said the new commission will have to “invest in human capital” to turn around the North Sarasota community.

Kirschner touted that for the first time, the commission added “quality of life” as one of its top priorities.

He cited as contributing to quality of life in Sarasota such things as the permanent police panels, homeless advocacy, the Palm Avenue parking garage, the Unconditional Surrender statue and new lights at Selby Five Points Park.

“(They) don’t always need a lot of money but attention to detail and excellent customer service,” said Kirschner.

City’s top priorities
1. Economic development
2. Budget
3. Sustainability
4. Transportation
5. Quality of life

Contact Robin Roy at [email protected].

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