Truth be told, I've never been a political person. I find red tape needlessly tedious so I stick with film, music, fashion or dating. My focus is on relationships and the mediums in which people communicate through words, film or song. My political stance only tends to rear its prickly head when someone attempts to silence these forms of artistic expression.
I consider myself fortunate. Being a journalist for This Week in Sarasota has allowed me to mix journalism with activism, and I believe that’s what makes social media so appealing. Back in the day, I’d only be able to deliver simple facts, remaining stiff and objective. But what good does that serve? It’s informative, yes. But how does it promote change? Consider it. How many articles have traditional media outlets written about the noise ordinance in the last few years?
True, we have a hot-button topic and a great new annual festival aptly titled Noise Ordinance, but what else?
A better question might be, when is the last time you walked along Main Street on a weekend after 9 p.m. and thought, How sad? With few exceptions, there’s barely a lick of music on the street. The only live entertainment stems from Mattison’s City Grille, and how many people (not wearing palm-tree button-ups) relate to that sound?
I swear --- sometimes living in Sarasota makes me feel like a character in Oliver, feeding off entertainment scraps, hungry for a main course. That’s why I attended the Aug. 20 Sarasota City Commission meeting (along with Fabulous Independent Film Festival Founder Magida Diouri) to ask the Commission to assist me in developing an exception to the noise regulations.
My letter read:
I am a Sarasota city resident and voter. I am also a journalist for This Week in Sarasota. I am here today to call upon the Sarasota City Commission to take a leadership role in creating an exception for the Sarasota downtown core regarding the current noise regulations. I feel the current rules limit growth for downtown merchants, and I would like to see a change regarding the use of amplified sound within the downtown core on specific days and times without the need of a special permit. I enjoy the idea of First Friday, with music and pedestrians alive in the streets. My question to the Commission is why can’t that be every Friday? As a city resident, I enjoy having dinner downtown and taking in live entertainment, and I believe such an exception will allow businesses to flourish during weekend hours without being shut down by isolated noise complaints. I am taking this action now, as Sarasota winter residents will soon return, potentially initiating noise complaints. I have grown tired of living in a city run by condo associations, and I’m asking the commission to consider helping me in devising an exception that will allow city residents to enjoy the benefits of a downtown alive after dark.
The response of the City Commission: "Let's refer the matter to the Downtown Sarasota Alliance."
It seems my request was misunderstood. I called upon a member of the City Commission to take a leadership role. I never mentioned nor had the intention of being passed off to the Downtown Sarasota Alliance, which is headed by John Harshman, the man who brought us the "Special Events" Meeting on June 6, 2012.
I asked to be involved as a Sarasota city resident working in conjunction with the Commission.
Isn't that enough? Or do I need to own a condo or business in the downtown core to have a say on the matter? (Sorry, I can't afford a downtown condo. I'm just one of those poor young artists you state you want to remain in town.) Who knows? Perhaps the Commission doesn't feel there are enough Sarasota city residents behind me seeking an exception that isn't based solely on the discretion of downtown condo and business owners.
I wonder, is downtown nightlife and live entertainment important to you? Will you take time out of your work day to attend the next City Commission meeting and voice your opinion?
History says no.
I believe that’s why the Commission continues to rely on the Downtown Sarasota Alliance. There isn't enough of an outcry for every voice to be heard. (FYI: Why does the issue of an elected mayor keeping coming up? Because Sarasota is praying for someone in local government who is brave enough to take a stand alone!)
Still, I remain an optimist. I believe in change. As citizens, the city is ours. That's what I hear.
I just don’t know if the voices are numerous enough for the Commission to listen. If I'm wrong, feel free to read my letter (or your own) at the next meeting.
Next Sarasota City Commission Meeting:
1565 1st Street
Sarasota, FL 34236
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