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Signs of the silly season

  • By
  • | 5:00 a.m. January 6, 2010
  • Longboat Key
  • Opinion
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Some people call it the “silly season.” It’s when political election campaigns are in full motion.

The season already has begun about a month earlier than usual here on Longboat Key, thanks to the primary race for the District 1 Town Commission seat on the far south end of the Key.

For the first time in ages, three candidates are vying for the seat that encompasses the Key south of Country Club Shores and along the Gulf front up to and including Beachplace: incumbent Mayor Lee Rothenberg and challengers Lynn Larson and Lee Pokoik.

All Longboat Key voters are eligible to vote in the Jan. 26 primary election to determine which two of these three candidates will be on the ballot for the March general election.

That early election explains, then, why Longboat’s landscape is becoming dotted with campaign signs so early in the election cycle.

And just as the sun rises in the east, the candidates’ camps are already pitching fits (legitimately in some instances) over where some of these signs are being speared into the ground and how the town sign gestapo is responding — or in some instances not responding.

And this is just the start. As the silly season progresses, we’re likely to see signs for as many as four more candidates: incumbent At-large Commissioner Hal Lenobel versus challenger Phil Younger and incumbent Commissioner Peter O’Connor versus challenger David Brenner.

With so many candidates and so much interest in this year’s Town Commission elections, it’s especially important that two things happen with respect to campaign signs:

1) Commission candidates must play by the rules and abide by the town’s sign codes. See the accompanying box. Ignorance is no excuse.

2) The town staff must enforce the codes consistently.

Let’s have healthy debates on the issues. No one wants the elections degenerating into candidates squawking about their opponents’ signs.

+ Another moment of truth
Now it’s the Longboat Key Town Commission’s turn.

This Friday, the Town Commission will begin its hearings on the Longboat Key Club and Resort’s proposed $400 million expansion-and-renovation plan.

Here’s the early scorecard, as we see it: All seven commissioners support some type of renovation and expansion. As for the proposed plans, it’s probably safe to say they all would like to see them scaled back. But if the commissioners must vote on what the Key Club has proposed so far, here’s our handicapping of how they’d vote:

• Yes — Jim Brown, Hal Lenobel, George Spoll, Bob Siekmann
No — Lee Rothenberg, Gene Jaleski
• Unpredictable (but probably no) — Peter O’Connor.

An unknown is whether the town’s upcoming commission elections will influence commissioners’ votes. Lenobel, Rothenberg and O’Connor are all running in contested races.

Lenobel won’t let the elections change his vote. He does what he believes is right, not what’s popular. Approving the Key Club is more important than re-election.

Rothenberg and O’Connor are in more difficult positions. If the commission completes the hearings in February and reaches the moment of a final Key Club vote, Rothenberg and O’Connor will face dilemmas. If they vote against the Key Club, will that vote assure their victory or defeat for Town Commission? If they vote for the Key Club, will that vote assure their victory or defeat for Town Commission?

Here’s the answer: Their re-elections shouldn’t matter. They should vote for what is best for the future taxpayers and property owners of Longboat Key.

And that is a no-brainer.

+ Domestic terrorism

There’s a saying about airline/airport stories: They’re like rear ends. Everybody’s got one.

Most of us have more than one — airline horror stories, that is. But we’ll thank the Almighty that we weren’t among those poor souls at the Newark Liberty International Airport who had to suffer through that check-in fiasco last weekend when a man walked nonchalantly into the departure concourse for Continental Airlines, bypassing the TSA security checkpoint.

For everyone’s safety (hah!), the TSA forced everyone who had been cleared to go back through the screening process again. This went on for six hours — affecting 100 flights and causing 27 flight cancellations.

Talk about terrorism!

If you flew over the holidays, surely it crossed your mind that the check-in process our government has devised has become our own domestic terrorism.

It’s nonsense, a classic case of the Law of Punishment by Exception. We punish the vast majority of travelers in the hope we scare the rare exception. Good gosh, terrorists must be laughing at their success. If they want to blow up a lot of people, there many other ways.

Scenes from the Denver airport last weekend:

• TSA officials scanning with great care the wheelchair of an elderly white woman who looked as much like a terrorist as Big Bird.

• A TSA official standing watch over two teenage girls embracing and crying in the snaking check-in line. One of the girls, who wasn’t traveling, had to have a TSA guard stand watch as she crossed a rope to hug her friend. Ridiculous.

This system is crazy. As you observe it in action — stripping yourself of your belts, jewelry, jackets and shoes while watching small groups of uniformed TSA employees meander around — you cannot help but get the urge to be defiant and sarcastic. That, of course, will only get you thrown in some TSA clink — and cause you to miss your flight.

Surely there’s a better way.

For starters, we’d require everyone in Congress to use the public system. Make them taste and feel it. Next, we’d make the process a competitive business. Bid it out to Disney or Universal Studios. Those two companies know how to move people efficiently — and keep them happy.


The following are the Longboat Key codes that are applicable to political signs:

156.04 Exempt signs: Political signs

(12) Political signs, subject to the following criteria:
(a) Each sign shall not exceed five square feet in area,
(b) A maximum of two political signs are pemittable per lot, parcel or tract,
(c) The signs shall be prohibited within street rights of way, but may be erected on private property and shall be removed from the premises within 48 hours after the issue or campaign has been decided or resolved;

156.10 Placement and construction standards

(A) Placement of Signs. All signs, except governmental signs, including exempt and permittable signs, shall:
(1) Not be located in any public right of way;
(2) Not be located as to obstruct entrances or exits from buildings or impede the visibility of oncoming traffic;
(3) Not be placed in a location which would prove dangerous to individuals or the public;
(4) Be located in the yard facing the street, driveway or other vehicular access point and shall be no closer to a public street than as follows:
(a) Where the property borders a right of way which is greater than or equal to 50 feet in width, the sign and structure shall be a minimum of two feet inside the property line or utility easement, whichever is greater.
(b) Where the property borders a right of way which is less than 50 feet in width, the sign and structure shall be a minimum of 10 feet inside the property line or utility easement or half of the distance between the property line and the front edge of the building, whichever is greater;
(5) Comply with the following intersection visibility requirements:
(a) At all street intersections, no sign exceeding 30 inches in height above the established grade of the street at the property line shall be erected or maintained on any lot within the triangle illustrated herein, except that a freestanding sign shall be permitted in a median located within the intersecting street right of way, provided that the sign is setback a minimum of five feet from the street right of way in compliance with Section 156.07(B).

156.14 Violations and sign removal

(A) Erection of prohibited signs; nonexempt signs without a valid permit; temporary signs which fail to display permanent identification tags: Immediate removal and disposition by the town without notice, administrative fine as provided herein.
(B) Temporary signs erected pursuant to valid permit or exempt signs improperly erected or located: Subject to immediate removal after notice (actual or constructive); impounded by the town for a minimum of 30 days during which time the sign owner may recover the sign upon payment of removal and storage costs. After 30 days the sign may be disposed of by the town without recourse and the town may seek an administration fine.



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