Under the city of Sarasota charter, the business of the city government is, first and foremost, serving the public.
That is why the public sits at the top of the organizational chart, followed by the City Commission as a body, and the charter officials (city manager, city attorney, city auditor & clerk).
In 2024, the residents of the city of Sarasota will have the opportunity to render their appraisals of the three district city commissioners (Alpert, Arroyo and Battie) at the voting booth.
Through the annual performance appraisal process for charter officials, city commissioners have the opportunity and responsibility to give thoughtful and constructive feedback, ask questions, identify problems, and provide direction.
Commissioners are forbidden by charter from directly communicating with staff without the city manager’s permission.
But, as the elected stewards of the public good, the city commission is invested with investigatory powers.
Given the disingenuous mischaracterizations by the planning staff of the scope and consequences of recently proposed zoning text amendments related to bars and nightclubs, these are the questions I would recommend the City Commission direct the city manager to explore, and answer:
- Who asked the Planning Department to write zoning text amendments so antithetical to downtown livability?
- Who suggested removing the distance between churches and bars?
- Who said kitchens and public health inspections were not important to restaurants
- When downtown crime statistics show a pattern related to bar closings, on what basis does staff assert that restaurants and bars have the same impact on their surroundings
- Who told the city attorney not to advance clarification of the sound ordinance?
- Who said the existing plainly audible at 50-feet noise ordinances should not be enforced?
- Why are the rules not being enforced to control impacts on shared environments of outdoor bars and nightclub events?
Although we seem to have strayed far away from our small town feel, it is possible for Sarasota to retain its appeal as a place to both visit and call home.
When it comes to making choices between commercial interests and the overall public health, safety and welfare, the city and the City Commission should be biased toward the public good.
None of the dramatic changes the Planning Department proposed help the public realm. The bars-everywhere zoning text changes should be withdrawn, and the existing rules designed to balance livability, walkability, and safe enjoyment should be enforced.
Contact city officials at [email protected] and ask them to exercise careful stewardship of the city’s most valuable asset — its residents’ health, safety, and well-being.
— Mollie Cardamone, Sarasota
Mollie Cardamone is a former city commissioner and current member of the endorsement committee of CityPAC.