In her final presentation to the Siesta Key Condominium Association as an elected official, County Commissioner Nora Patterson gave an unvarnished rundown on a series of hot topics facing county government.
In front of the crowd of about 70 Siesta condominium owners who attended the Tuesday meeting, Patterson took clear positions on what she considered to be the most pressing issues facing the commissioners — of particular interest to the audience of Siesta residents was her insistence that a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project to dredge Big Pass face greater scrutiny.
Patterson stressed the need for an independent peer review of the project. “I want this peer-reviewed by someone without their wallets in the game,” she said.
Patterson cast doubt on the Army Corps’ assurances that mining the Big Pass shoal for Lido Beach sand would not negatively impact the health of Siesta Key beaches. The Army’s predictive modeling, Patterson said, was based on older studies by environmental consultants, which concluded that small, incremental dredges of the Big Pass shoal would likely not cause serious harm to Siesta beaches.
She pushed back against the relevance of those earlier studies to the Army Corps’ present proposal.
Patterson, whom many Siesta resident colloquially refer to as the "champion of Siesta Key," is the longest-serving member of the Sarasota County Commission — she has served four terms as county commissioner, as well as eight years as a Sarasota city commissioner.
Patterson indicated that she will retire at the end of her current term, opening the door for a political newcomer to step into her District 2 seat, which represents the Siesta Key zip code.
“I believe the next few years will be very important for our county,” Patterson said.
“It’s time for some new blood.”
At the end of her presentation to the Siesta Key Condominium Association, Patterson briefly alluded to the two candidates running for her seat in the Nov. 4 election.
Without mentioning him by name, Patterson referred to Kimley-Horn Vice President Al Maio as a "good guy" and a "friend."
"Although, he doesn't live on Siesta Key," she added.
Patterson then asked Maio's opponent, Sarasota County Council of Neighborhood Associations (CONA) President Lourdes Ramirez, who was in the crowd, to stand up.
"Lourdes is also a friend of mine; she has a good brain," Patterson said, adding, "and she lives on Siesta Key."
On the county budget:
“During the recession we lost 40% of our property tax base; we are on our way back, but only a quarter of the way.”
On diversifying Sarasota County’s economy:
“We all have known for years that tourism and construction are not enough for this area’s economic health. We want high-paying, high-tech jobs — the same jobs that every other state in the union wants and every other county in Florida. It’s hard to see how we can make any headway in this.”
Contact Nolan Peterson at [email protected]