Pinocchio knows what’s best for Longboat Key

Editor & Publisher

The reason the FDA came into existence is industry lacks the ability to self regulate beyond the mandates of profitability. Same with labor laws. Every horrible subsidized federal agency is due to a prior abuse and a cultural shift that made a practice so unappealing, dangerous or averse to public interest that somebody had to step in with the interest of the public.

Libertarians, with all their idealized Ayn Rand-dependent sentiments that they repeat like an over-used and now bland teabag, like to think life is governed by the educts of enlightened self-interest. These are inevitably people who are either selfishly protecting their own interests at and have found a freshman college level morality or social philosophy that substantiates and ennobles their goals. Kind of like research in the pharmaceutical industry. Kind of like Pinocchio. Exactly like cell tower advocates on Longboat Key.

And if I seem outraged over what I discovered over the past month, bear with me. As a father of six, I grow intolerant when I am told a story which upon examination crumbles. Especially when that story serves the interest of the few, or the one.

Now back to cell towers and what is outrageous and insulting to the intelligence of most every Longboat Key resident.


Gaps in coverage, truth

You have been told there are significant gaps in coverage that cause a health, safety and welfare issue. Planning and Zoning Board Chair BJ Webb actually spewed out that there is an urgency to fix the problem of telecommunications before an emergency occurs.

Then we have the Redevelopment Task Force, which has intoned that high-end visitors will not come to our Key if they cannot use their devices and this must be a priority.

Then we had Tower Builder Jimmy Etreades who sought to send cell signals radiating from a planned tower at the Longboat Island Chapel. But it would not be the word of God radiating from the site, it would be a Tower of Babel with a pittance of rent money to offset the degradation of a spiritual site and one the of the Key’s most loved houses of worship. Essentially — while the church was struggling financially a stream of income could be created.

They went so far as that our former Planning and Zoning Director Monica Simpson and Town Attorney Dave Persson suggested a methodology of allowing Etreades to create an outline development plan to allow a cell tower on the site. It took an attorney hired by an upset resident to impress upon the town that they were not following the Town’s own zoning rules and did not have the land to create an outline development plan.

How many times must residents pay to fight the town siding and helping a developer build something that is sold by a handful of vested interests and resident experts?


Assault on our own codes

And the lies only continued. Next, we had the Current Town Manager and Current Planning and Zoning Director allow language in a proposed telecommunications ordinance that directly stated our current regulations that have controlled cell tower proliferation for a decade are in violation of Federal and State Law and the Telecommunications Act. They actually offered up an ordinance to be voted upon and paid and attorney to craft what has come to be recognized as an utter falsehood.

Planning Board member George Symanski asked why the Town would put something so damaging, self-destructive and in my words “shill laden” into law in our community. Why? It is called legislatively greasing the skids.

Remember the Longboat Key Club expansion plan? I would love to see the Key Club update and redevelop, but they never should have been granted the right to upend our land use protections and the residential protections put in place and enjoyed by the vast majority of residents.

But recall the Commission and the town attorney joining hands with the applicant’s attorney and calling our Comprehensive Plan and land use regulations unclear and unintelligible. They argued for the applicant and advocated for the applicant and grew more and more hostile to Longboat’s very own codes and laws that it took a circuit judge and residents spending a million dollars on attorneys to essentially tell the Town that it interpreted its own rules completely wrong on most every count.

Again, our leaders — and most are still running (or should we say stalling or reversing) our Town — acted defensively and indignant that they did not get their way.

And do we have to talk about the Mar Vista approval and the lack of notice to affected property owners? The problem there was not Ed Chiles, just as the fault was not with the Key Club owners. One expects businesses to expand their footprint and operation. But our leaders have spent years now tripping over themselves pushing and approving things either contradictory to the resident’s interest or wholeheartedly favoring developer initiatives. Now back to cell towers.


What irks…

Here is what irks me. I was lied to. I actually over the past two years took at face value that there were dark caverns of coverage where calls could not be made. I bought the anecdotal evidence from a handful of folks who said they always drop calls. I assumed that we need to make a policy of uninterrupted coverage so residents are safe walking and driving around the Key if there was an emergency. And guess what? All of these beliefs were my stupidly accepting the words of all the community Pinocchios.

Here is what gives me the audacity and conviction to speak so harshly. Over the past two weeks I have driven every street in the Longbeach Village — public and private. I have driven every finger street radiating east and west of Gulf of Mexico Drive all with the same assumption — there are gaps in coverage was my thought and I wanted to see how severe these gaps are and specifically where they are.

And guess what? Just like the search for the weapons of mass destruction, there is not a single foot of pavement on Longboat Key where my Iphone lost reception. And to top it off, my son, who has a Samsung Galaxy S3 did not lose reception either — not anywhere.

We actually laughed as we talked to our connected parties and kept looking down at two and three bars in the worst locations.

And then a rage welled up inside me. The fact that we have been misguided. The fact that I found out neither our own Town staff nor a single Commissioner I could find has ever taken the trouble to actually do the same test. But they have the arrogance to perpetuate a fear in order to loosen our codes to allow something that is not needed.

And the reality is if I had dropped the call even once in a section of road I would want a solution to the so-called cell reception dilemma. Not necessarily a tower, but perhaps a tower. Perhaps DAS or any of the wild-eyed innovative technology that is emerging as we live and die each day.

And I feel for residents who have dropped calls. But as I examine further or investigate, the same pattern emerges. Either they are complaining of dropping calls in their homes, or they are using old and dated equipment.

Longboat Key News actually ran a front-page story of a woman who said she could not reach the police when a man was aggressively following her in a truck. I felt that is something that needed to be remedied. But of course, when after the story came out, I discovered she uses an old Blackberry phone. No wonder she drops calls I said to myself. My last Blackberry could not make it over the Ringling Bridge without dropping calls.


Education anyone?

So instead of educating residents about how to solve their indoor reception problems, our Town entertains the cell reception problem as if we are playing with lives and putting residents at risk.

And think of the Chamber and the Redevelopment Task Force. Imagine how their broadcasting this lie that we have bad reception and high-end tourists will eschew Longboat Key plays out. Their rhetoric is a marketing turd flung in the face of tough economic times.

What better way to damage the idea of tourists looking forward to a visit than to say we are sub par because we drop calls? And that sentiment is not only not true, but demonstrability fails with the most minor investigatory work. All it takes is a vehicle, a cell phone and an open mind.


The right thing to do in life is to bring a solution to the table. But when you have shills advocating solutions to which there is no known problem, the best action is to try and steer the boat back on course.

And the right course, as always, is to preserve the cultivated beauty of Longboat Key. And that means not only maintaining our strict rules and regulations, but holding ourselves to the highest standard of beauty, aesthetics, land use regulations and maintaining the controlled paradise that defines our island.

If we continue to pursue this idiocy and do not bury the idea of a cell tower once and for all, I make a recommendation: Let’s erect a Pinocchio sculpture at the old north end gas station to recognize the efforts of all those who have pushed the misinformation and the fear. We could call it Longboat’s Unconditional Surrender to Pinnochio. That would put us on some kind of tourist map I am sure.





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7 Responses for “Pinocchio knows what’s best for Longboat Key”

  1. Fred Lugano says:

    “the degradation of a spiritual site”
    “selfishly protecting their own interests”

    Many angry words, but thankfully some comic relief.

    I don’t have a cell phone or a dog in this fight. Still it’s frustrating to see all the heated rhetoric with very little light. When do we get to the bad part of building a cell tower? Something a little more tangible than ‘it’s the devil’s work’ would be helpful.

    LBK is packed with tall, hideous, and barely occupied buildings. So the esthetic case for banning communication towers left the dock decades ago. The choice was made to build out a habitable island, not a fantasy jungle garden.

    Data transmission is important to most affluent people and ever increasingly so. I have a picture of some guy standing on the roof of a LBK home trying to get a cell signal. So claims that all is well with our telecommunication infrastructure are not persuasive. I dream of someday trading stocks while sitting under an umbrella at the beach. Then we’ll have enough.

  2. William Kary says:

    Really, a cellphone works on LBK EVERYWHERE? Can’t go there Steve. The best technology, I have it plus and still have issues. Dropped calls? I am on Verizon, one of the largest providers and have issues. The bigger question is the number of residents on LBK who don’t even realize their call has been dropped and just keep on talking…

  3. Anne Arsenault says:

    I cannot get my cell phone to work inside my home, but I WALK out to the beach if I need to make a call. Mostly I use my land line. My phone is not expensive, but I am not quite finished with the two-year contract Verizon gave me. When I am, I will get an i phone and hope it will work in my home.
    The lack of trust in our commissioners is, however, a bigger issue. I was lied to about the restoration of Whitney Beach many times, many of which were reported in the newspapers. Never having experienced this before in the towns I have lived in, I have come to the conclusion that the people elected in LBK are not qualified to be leaders. They lie for votes and change their minds if an influential person in town contradicts them. Everything is political in this town, unfortunately.

  4. spencer ross says:

    Mr. Jennings:
    All the shenanigans that have been perpetrated against the taxpayers of Longboat Key are by a small group of self-serving individuals who have gauged the system. They realize that few people take the time to get involved and more than half the year are not around to keep track of what is going on. Things will not change until citizens elect those who are guided by the interests of LBK and not their self-interests and egos.

  5. Ghostrider says:

    Cogent points, Mr. Reid.

  6. spencer ross says:

    Well said Steve. Let’s turn the old gas station into a wireless phone store so that all the folks with old phones can trade them in for new ones that work on the island.

  7. charles jennings says:

    Amen! You have finally said what has been needed to be said about these Commisioners and their arrogance. As a member of IPOC and private citizen, I contributed hunderds of dollars to protect us from these same commisioners who are supposed to protect us. When will the residents of LBK decide to vote these guys out or is there just too much indifference by the voters? Paraphrasing someone–“evil will triumph when enough good people do nothing”!

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