Trump and Sanders visit Longboat to help solve utility undergrounding fight

Editor & Publisher

I invited both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders to Longboat Key to help resolve the utility undergrounding issue. They each took time out of their campaign to help.

Trump pulled into my driveway in a long black limo that sported a bumper sticker reading, “Big Hands Rule.” He finished listening to Flight of the Valkyries before swaggering inside.

Trump studied Longboat’s budget and looked at the situation and said, “Don’t be stupid; we are going to underground. It will look so magnificent. You are going to love it.”

When I pressed Trump for details, he offered his plan.

“It is just a matter of making a good deal. Longboat Key does not win any more. Sarasota County is going to pay to underground Longboat and they will like it. We have a major imbalance and give them $16 million a year in school taxes for nothing. They are paying for it — end of story.”

Bernie Sanders later that night arrived in a 1971 Volkswagen bus. The bus had a bumper sticker that read, “Please inhale before voting.”

Bernie was cranking “Bridge over Troubled Waters” as he pulled up. He yelled out the window, “This is what I like to call a Vermont Limousine. This old hippie wagon predates the Volkswagen TDI diesel engine and computer that was rigged to pollute our atmosphere. It is eco friendly and paid for. Everyone should have one.”

Bernie sauntered in my home and listened to the pros and cons of the undergrounding and offered his take.

“Everyone is going to get free undergrounding,” Bernie exclaimed. “Right now the rich, those who live behind the gates have their utilities undergrounded and we should make all of those in million dollar plus homes pay for it. In fact, Vern Buchanan should pay the lion’s share and why doesn’t Katherine Harris move out here and pay? She still owes the country the way I see it. As for the Longboat Key Commission, the only reason the Commission won’t do ad valorum is the Bay Isles and Islandside property owners have them in their pocket.”


The risk of doing nothing…

Upon reflection, politics will not solve anything. Undergrounding the utilities on Longboat Key reminds me of a protracted family dispute full of one-sided thinking.

As Tolstoy said, all happy families are alike.

Happy families share values, show respect and generally get along. Then there is the rest of humanity.

Those who love argument and love even more to hear themselves speak are married to their own ideas. They listen to, or rather endure, another point of view for the sole benefit to have the opportunity to make a counter point.

So when it comes to politics on Longboat Key, which one are we? Are we the family with a common goal, a set of shared values that can actually get things done?

Or, are we stuck thinking we are smarter than the last person and the best course of action is to keep arguing until some day EMS takes us away to that final assisted living facility in the sky?

Are we content to risk doing nothing?

I am talking about undergrounding. I am talking about those who cannot understand that all policies, much like candidates and family members, are full of flaws.

We have heard Villagers who ask rhetorically how many property owners will lose their homes due to the cost of undergrounding.

We have seen and heard Commissioner Lynn Larson with a face reddening and pulsing and contorted with an “I have had it up to here” exclamation as she tells Villagers they are lucky to have a subsidy at all in getting their lines undergrounded.

We have witnessed Gene Jaleski who early on in so many issues is at the cutting edge technologically in the community. Then, later, he is at the cutting edge in the protests and legal opposition to the very same ideas.

And families, just like communities, are bound together through argument.

Most extended families get together —especially during holidays — and rekindle the same disputes that have gone on for years and sometimes generations.


Undergrounding’s First Nobel Truth

When it comes to undergrounding, we are in one of Longboat’s inevitable protracted disputes.

Fairness, beauty, aesthetics, the principles of taxation and of representation and who should choose and who should pay all intersect in this one project we all get to vote on.

And through all this discord and attitude we all agree on one thing: the island will be vastly improved with undergrounded utilities. Yet after that one noble truth, it all falls apart if we start to apply it case by case.

In essence, every property owner will either get more for their money or less than somebody else. There is no such thing as a perfect assessment that represents the actual cost benefit. Every part of the program is open to attack and counter attack. The town used benefit units to calculate the amount charged to each parcel. Of course the units are arbitrary. They do not even take into account property values.


A convoluted crapshoot

Like Democracy, the method is overwhelmingly flawed. In fact the only thing worse is every other method.

Nothing is fair or equal. In Democracy, the educated and enlightened voter gets the same vote as the ignoramus. The wealthiest person who pays millions in taxes gets the same vote as the most indebted recipient of every social benefit.

Is that fair?

Taxes, health, looks, beauty, genetic advantages are all parceled out with the appearance of a convoluted crapshoot. Who gets born into what world and when and where?  Perhaps as the evangelicals say, it is all God’s plan, but don’t look for fairness.

The point is we have to step back and take life empirically — as it presents itself. Through this community battle — in the crucible of our small town political process — we are confronted with an opportunity to either vote “Yes” and have our power lines undergrounded and dark fiber connecting the community, or not.


We are exceptional!

From my vantage point and from every vantage point going forward we must look at Longboat Key in its entirety with its future and its interests at heart. When we do that, we must vote “Yes” to this plan that while flawed, plays to our island’s highest aspirations.

If we say “No” to undergrounding the neighborhoods, we will have squandered the very spirit that makes Longboat Key exceptional and apart from most every other community.

Remember — we have the finest police and fire departments, a coastline of indescribable beauty and a class of residents and visitors that make each and every day interesting and exciting.

Burying the power lines goes right in line with our best decisions as a community. We have the perfect small tennis center. Bayfront Park is on its way to becoming a critical asset. We have the former Hilton opening within a year refreshed and expanded. We have the Colony on the cusp of solving its own battles and redeveloping.

So on March 15 we are faced with something that allows us to aesthetically set the stage for generations to come.

Do we want antiquated wires and the intractable ugliness of the power poles disfiguring our landscape?

We should not allow ourselves to grow complacent and accept the mediocre. Longboat Key should always strive to be a tiny sliver of perfection.

If we can be better stewards and unclutter its appearance, if we can make the Key safer, if we can technologically take a leap into the future — we should proudly embrace this moment in our island’s evolution. Better that then parsing the process and doing what is easiest — nothing.

We need a “Yes” vote. And as much as we need a “Yes” vote from the Village and the north Key, we especially need Bay Isles and Islandside property voters to spend the small amount and vote in support of this plan.

Do not view it as a subsidy to bury someone else’s power lines. Think of yourself as part owner of Longboat Key and we are all being called upon to make an investment in our collective home.

Vote “Yes” to underground our power lines.




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4 Responses for “Trump and Sanders visit Longboat to help solve utility undergrounding fight”

  1. Ross P. Alander says:

    Perhaps while they are here they can resolve the crosswalk problems:)

  2. who's on first says:

    Steve, you called this one right. Underground lines take the weather out of any equation. And the whether underground movement was indeed swayed by those already having their power and eating it too. I look outside my window in Bay Isles and see nothing (probably the damn sea fog today) to impede my view of trees (and therefore allergies) in bloom. I happily voted to pay less than the cost that will be imposed on others because I had already had that cost reflected in the purchase price of my home. And eventually (around the twelfth of never) those poles will be gone everywhere and everyone of us will see the value of our homes go up, up, and even higher up. Well, maybe not those homes with old boats parked in their yards, but you get my drift. And when President Trump does indeed build that wall, and makes Mexico pay for it, we’ll all be thankful we don’t have to trim around those nasty poles since we won’t have Manuel Labor-ing for us.

  3. Georgie McFarland says:

    Burying power lines for 26 Million will do nothing to increase the value of Longboat Key property; whereas maintaining the beach and fixing the erosion problem will be a much better investment along with decreasing the pension liability.

  4. al green says:

    LBK has from its inception has been a real estate play. Buyers buy to retire here knowing they will be able to sell or have their heirs sell at a profit. Everything that we’ve done over the past thirty years has been done merely to enhance these values. At the first meeting of the GMD beautification committee, it was decided that the first thing we should do is bury the electric lines. FPL said it was impractical and they wouldn’t give us a price. It is now 26 years later and it still hasn’t happened. residents will make double their investment with this project when they finally cash out. al green

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