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Arts and Entertainment Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013 8 years ago

For better or worse: city commissioners-elect weigh in on "sound"

by: Anthony Paull

I don’t know exactly why, but I never miss an election, including the silly ones about hospital board members I really don’t care about. I blame it on the “I Voted” sticker. It lures me in, making me feel like a carefree kid in a world where grown-ups have forgotten the importance of stickers after elementary school. Wasn’t that the best part of taking tests---the promise of a scratch-and-sniff sticker next to the ‘E’ for excellent? Isn’t that what a local election truly is---a grown-up test for the city? Well, if you agree, then be prepared to do your homework, because there is a big question attached to the ticket on the upcoming city commission election, and that is the question of sound.

Do you want a vibrant downtown? What is your definition of "vibrant?" Live entertainment after 8 p.m.? 10 p.m.? Everyone appears to agree that sound is a key ingredient to a prosperous downtown, but not everybody likes the idea of change, including the Editorial Director of Sarasota Magazine, whose recent answer to a city on the verge of growth was a gurgling, insipid diatribe equating wrinkles to wisdom titled "I Don’t Think So."

In the piece, Pam Daniel states she’s losing her patience with "another generation making the same old statements." She urges recent graduates to move to the big city for higher-paying jobs, showing no regard for technology or a city that prides itself on emerging artists. Yet what she doesn’t understand (but should) is the members of this "generation" represent the future of Sarasota. And to keep them, many residents are calling upon the city to provide downtown entertainment after 8 p.m. It’s a small request---on which I’m certain people of all generations would agree.

That’s why City Commissioner Paul Caragiulo is preparing a "sound" proposal for the city, which he hopes will meet the needs of everyone. The plan includes the possibility of establishing downtown "zones" where exceptions---including a small increase in decibel level limits and extended hours of live entertainment---would be permissible outside of the current regulations. Caragiulo hopes to present the plan to fellow (and newly-elected) city commissioners later this year to determine if downtown Sarasota is ready to embrace a new stance on sound.But for now, the question is: Where do you stand, and how should that affect your vote? On March 12 there are two at-large seats for grab, meaning any eligible voter within the city limits can vote. To help get everybody out there, This Week In Sarasota has gathered the "sound opinions"---pro, against, and somewhere in between---of the six commissioner-elects.

Suzanne Atwell

“I support Commissioner Caragiulo’s efforts to bring forth a sound regulations compromise. I think it’s time to bring the issue to the forefront, meeting the needs of a growing downtown, young and old, residents, merchants and retirees. I think entertainment and enjoyment of an urban and increasingly cosmopolitan core should be a priority if we are to draw a more diverse population who want to live, work and play here. The city needs a defined and predictable framework with regard to entertainment.”

Susan Chapman

“I think the [sound] proposal is unfinished. I see it as more of a technological issue. I know there is acoustic technology that can be used. I don’t think that’s been explored. I would like to know more about acoustical engineering solutions before we start talking about entertainment zones. Sound is complicated and one thing we learned in my neighborhood is that sound is about vibration. None of that has been discussed. I think that without talking about the science behind it we might be missing an opportunity. It might be a good business opportunity for someone.”

Richard Dorfman

“I don’t really like the term 'entertainment zones.' In order to create a district, you have to define it by borders and give it a name. I’m in favor of extending the hours on certain nights. I think the music we have at Mattison’s is a wonderful asset to downtown. I don’t find it to be overly loud. Downtown needs vibrancy and music brings vibrancy. To make music difficult to enjoy---I don’t agree with it. I don’t think what’s being asked is very onerous---it’s a very small ask. I would rather keep people downtown than have them driving all over the county to find the same sort of thing.”

Linda E. Holland

“I’m familiar with the discussions. There was a place called Lemon Coast; it was really cool. It was an open-air venue. Actually, Lemon Coast, to their credit, put in some buffers. I thought it was good to see them help the situation as best as they could. We want a vibrant downtown, with a mix of young and old. I certainly believe that we need to make an effort that works for everybody, transforming downtown into a lively place where everyone wants to be, while respecting those residing there. I support the dialogue that furthers the discussion to a reasonable compromise. I’m glad to hear that it's moving forward, because we need it, along with talks about other city issues.”

Kelvin Lumpkin

“I want to see a vibrant downtown, and doing so, we need to take a look at the sound regulations. Downtown is starting to attract retailers but we also want to attract young people as well. My way would be finding a middle ground where none of those groups is adversely affected. All of us want a vibrant place to go out at night. I want Sarasota to be a place that draws locals back after college.”

Pete Theisen

“If you just have to draw the issue so flatly as 'for or against,' then I am against.

"I see from the comments to your article that current law is 65db. I believe that was adopted based on what some people find annoying after 10 p.m. While higher levels up to 95db will not cause ear damage, we have to remember that people are sleeping in the condos, or rather trying to sleep, so I say stay with 65db, and enforce the hell out of it---huge fines, jail or even prison for repeat offenders. The condo owners have hundreds of thousands invested in their homes, and they live there. The band leaders, maybe $20K if they have a really deluxe set-up, and they live somewhere else. If they have to have a show after 10 p.m., they can dial down to 65db to comply with existing laws and pass out earphones, which confine the louder music only to those who want to hear it loud. The bouncers and police will have to shut down the screaming, yelling, whistling and hollering. Someone who won't shut up can spend the night in the drunk tank, pay a big fine in the morning and get a misdemeanor record. End of problem. Since the musicians themselves are nearly always deaf from all the self-exposure, or, I don't know, for some reason incapable of turning the dial down, some will not be able to comply and thus will have to 'lose their licenses' after a ticket or two. They might need earphone monitors to play under 65db.

"It isn't the equipment. I have a couple of amps and some instruments and a decibel meter. I know the dials will go down to 65db or below---I have turned my own dials that low; I can still hear the instruments. If I were hearing impaired I would get an earphone monitor. I also listen to other people's live music myself in clubs quite often. I have no trouble going home at 10 p.m. If the clubs need more performing time, let them put on a lunch or even a breakfast show. There may be an untapped market for daytime live music.”

The Sarasota City Commission Election

March 12, 2013. Please vote.

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