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Letters to the editor: Sarasota 7.2.15

This week's letters to the editor

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  • | 6:00 a.m. July 2, 2015
  • Sarasota
  • Opinion
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Shame on The Observer for caving to pettiness

Your June 18 editorial concluding that a separate business improvement district be created for the Rosemary District instead of including it in an expanded Downtown Improvement District is based on a false or implied premise.

Why would it make sense to create separate, contiguous districts when the goal for Rosemary is to make it a mixed-use, walkable and walk-to-town neighborhood?

There is a significant commercial core in Rosemary, and much of the new development there will increase its residential base just like downtown.

Why fragment the effort to create a strong urban core for the city of Sarasota by reducing the funding and bonding ability of the individual organizations, minimizing the ability of each to create meaningful community improvement efforts just to satisfy a few cry babies who don’t want to share?

Why does it make sense to make Fruitville Road more of a barrier between two parts of our downtown when connectivity is really what we are trying to achieve? We must get rid of that dead zone along Fruitville Road and an expanded DID into Rosemary can help achieve that.

Why would we ignore the advice of the best research done to date on business improvement districts anywhere in the world by balkanizing our downtown? The Furman Center of New York University (New York City has the largest number of business improvement districts in the world — 67) concludes that bigger business improvement districts have bigger impacts, especially when they are contiguous.

Unified approaches to business promotion, streetscape maintenance, plantings, street lighting, etc., make more sense than breaking our city up into disconnected, unrelated bits and pieces. And they are also more likely to have a positive impact on the value of commercial property.

And what about the burden of the unnecessary duplicative administrative burdens of operating multiple districts that the city staff and taxpayer shoulder?

The editorial says that “a few members of the Downtown Improvement District Board have requested the City Commission form a task force.” Actually, the vote was unanimous, including Ron Soto.

The conclusion that “Inevitably, the money is distributed inequitably” has no basis in fact. There are three special dependent districts in the city of Sarasota, and I’ve never heard such a complaint.

The complaint from the St. Armands business owners about city garbage collection has no relevance, and I wonder why it is even mentioned.

The conclusion that an expanded DID would result in property owners inevitably being dissatisfied for being slighted has no basis in fact. There are about 800 BIDs around the world, and the research contains no such evidence.

This editorial does not sound like the quality writing I expect to see in the Sarasota Observer. Sorry. Shame on the Sarasota Observer for suggesting caving in to the pettiness and stinginess of some self-centered individuals.

Ken Shelin


Charleston is a lesson of grace and faith

All of our thanks and respect, in addition to our prayers, should go out to the members and leadership of the Charleston AME church, to the African-American citizens of Charleston and to the leadership of that fine community.

One needs but look at similar events in communities across our nation these past years and compare the response by the various communities and by those in leadership in Washington to really understand what is going on.

Compare what happened in the Orlando area, Missouri, Baltimore and Charleston. Look at the character of the individuals involved and to the shootings themselves.

The African-American community in Charleston had the strongest case to really get upset, but it responded with grace and faith.

Of the millions of citizens living in our country, there certainly are the small number of idiots who carry a grudge against a variety of ideals the majority of us hold dear. You need just look at various violent acts in schools and churches, on street corners and elsewhere to see these crimes are not restricted to one subject, but are crimes arising out of the misguided thinking (or lack of same) on whatever subject with which some individual disagrees.

How we respond either diminishes or builds the greater good. The people of Charleston stood tall. They showed the values on which they are made. They showed the world how quality people live and act. They chose to lift up and exhibit to the world how they practice what they preach.

I would hope communities across this nation would pattern their planning and thinking after the exemplary standard set in Charleston.

The Civil War began in Charleston. Let us hope the example has just begun also in that great community to demonstrate that by using self control and grace one can show he is better than the perpetrators.

Wells Purmort


Your opinion is bordering racism

The June 25 “Our View” about the Confederate flag was outrageously shortsighted and narrow-minded.

Your opinion was the flag was not a symbol defending social injustice (therefore should stay flying on taxpayer-paid state property) since the Civil War was not begun because of slavery but because of tariffs the north imposed on the South’s exports.

Of course, the Civil War was begun by the Southern states for multiple reasons. One was slavery. To indicate and infer the Confederate flag is not a symbol of white supremacy and slavery is intrinsically prejudiced, bordering racism.

Your “Our View” opinion does not matter anyway. The Confederate flag was held alongside a pistol in a photo on Dylan Roof’s website. It is obvious, because he recently murdered nine African-American church attendees he thinks waving the Confederate flag and murdering African-Americans represent the same innocuous activity.

So why are our elected officials allowing the Confederate flag (a known symbol of white supremacy groups) to fly on state property, knowing now that ignorant killers see that and think to kill African-Americans must be OK?

Allen Fenderson


Neighbors should be praised for speaking out

It’s interesting that you carry the consistent refrain on your front page: “You. Your neighbors. Your neighborhood.” After reading your June 25 editorial, “The ‘taking’ of your property,” it’s hard to determine the point of your slogan when you chastise and belittle neighbors that speak up and advocate for a comprehensive vision for their neighborhood.

For the benefit of Observer readers, I am compelled to share some facts that clearly got in the way of your editorial:

You claim that the city “unlawfully” “infringed” on the owner of the Ringling Plaza Shopping Center’s “use of his property and denied him the legal use and value of his property.” But two separate courts of law determined that placing this 24-hour Walmart on that parcel would be unlawful. Fancy that.

In other words, while your editorial states that it was this rascally small number of people who are to blame for “victimizing” the property owner, the facts have been shown in City Hall and in two courtrooms that this was not a political decision; rather, it was a black-and-white, quasi-judicial zoning decision — no different than if Editor Matt Walsh wanted to erect a 30-story casino/entertainment center with 24/7 full-nude entertainment in the lobby on his single-family lot on Longboat Key.

Would Mr. Walsh be considered the “victim” if the Longboat Town Commission denied him his building permit for such a project incongruous with his neighborhood and the vision of the town? I don’t think many people would see it that way, but apparently Mr. Walsh would because it violates his rights as a property owner and consists of a “taking” by a mob confiscating his property.

You state the poor property owner can’t do anything with his site because it is “unclear what the city would allow on the site.” This is a blatant lie. He can do everything his current zoning entails, including quite a large list of neighborhood-oriented retail options.

Will that maximize his profit as much as selling to Walmart? Probably not.

Your editorial blaming the neighbors for Mr. Burks’ failed project is a continuation of the revisionist local history. In a similar vein as Mr. Louis Doyle, Mr. Burks did not have the entitlements he wanted, and he sought nearly a three-time increase in development rights.

Apparently immune to cognitive dissonance, you somehow also wrote, “Unpredictable property rights and land-use decisions have a chilling effect on economic growth and cause the price of real estate to rise out of reach of average citizens. We see that already in Sarasota.”

In other words, perhaps if you really do agree with this as well as the quote from “The Road to Serfdom” next to the editorial, you should actually be praising the large number of thoughtful, conscientious neighbors for standing up and speaking out against such haphazard decision-making that gives no predictability for land-use and property values, only serving to create a market for speculators and not people who want to live and build great things in our community and in our neighborhoods.

Maybe we’re not as dumb as we look, and the next time, Mr. Doyle, Mr. Burks and other individuals looking to cash in quick won’t waste their or our time and will actually look to do something within the realm of what’s legally allowed. And if they want to deviate from that, then the expectation should be it is an improvement over what is currently allowed.

Holly Dennis


Plea to preserve Sarasota’s history too little, too late

Ernie Ritz’s plea to the city’s Historic Preservation Board (“Downtown leaders revisit the past,” June 25 issue) is too little, too late. Sarasota has no history of preserving its past, rather it has a marvelous track record of bulldozing its past: The Lido Beach Casino and the El Verona Hotel, to name a few, and turning the landmark Kress building into office space. What good is the facade without some character?

The powers that be in Sarasota for the last 15 years have been all about bigger, taller, glitzier, more modern and contemporary. They have not placed any value on preserving the character that built Sarasota into a jewel on the bayfront.

My message to Ernie is, “It’s gone, it’s not ever coming back. Sarasota missed the moment. It’s sad, but it’s true.”

One small city in Florida that did it right is Winter Park. When my husband and I need “a fix” of old Florida style and grace that’s where we head for a long weekend at the Park Plaza Hotel. We enjoy a beautiful park with benches to sit on, a rose garden to marvel at and a long street of great shopping right outside the hotel door — all in the downtown core. And, just for fun, once every few minutes a train pulls into the train station right in downtown. Now, that’s old Florida history and charm!

Cathryn C. Girard, Esq.


Pope’s point is well taken

Although I am a non-Catholic, I find your rant against Pope Francis inappropriate and full of misinformation. The leader of the Christian world has voiced serious concerns for the enormous apathy of the West in its regard for both the international environment and for people in despairing situations over which they have no control. Yes: these are real issues that those “luminaries” you mention such as Rand, Smith, Bastiat and Hayek fail to address with specifics.

The pope’s point is well taken. For those who have much, much is expected, yet The Observer’s stance is not merely to look the other way but also to attack. Are reasons for the many social charities you support simply to see which designer is being worn? Until The Observer becomes less superficial in its regard for real-world issues, we find it inflammatory at worst and vapid at best. Stick to what you do best: ads, ads, and more ads ... oh, and the tide tables.

Dr. Louis and Katherine H. Baylor


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