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Longboat Key Letters – Week ending September 8, 2017

Longboat Key News encourages Letters to the Editor on timely issues. Please email to: letters@lbknews.com or mail to PO Box 8001, Longboat Key, FL 34228. We also print letters sent to Town Hall that address Longboat Key issues. We reserve the right to edit.

O’Connor piece on Charlottesville

To: Editor

I write to disagree in the strongest possible terms with Peter O’Connor’s August 25 column entitled, “What really happened in Charlottesville”. Rarely have I seen a piece so bereft of historical accuracy or logic.

First, in no way is the movement to take down Confederate statues an attempt to “erase history.”  The overwhelming majority of these statues were not erected to honor Confederate “heroes” (a.k.a., traitors who fought a war against our country) in the immediate aftermath of the war; rather, they were erected in the period between 1910 and 1920 by Jim Crow white supremacists.  They were designed to intimidate the African-American population, and show them that white Southerners were firmly back in charge after Reconstruction. The erection of these statues corresponded in time with increased activity of the Klan and a big upsurge in lynching. So, they are, on their face, not only reminders of oppression, but testimonials to it. I don’t suppose that anyone thinks that Jewish citizens of Germany today would fail but feel oppressed by statues of Hitler, Himmler and Heydrich. There simply is no tangible difference between a monument to Nathan Bedford Forrest, the founder of the Klan, and one to one of those evil individuals.  I can easily understand why African-Americans find these statues and the equally obnoxious Confederate flag intimidating. I am white and I find them disgusting.

O’Connor’s argument saluting Robert E. Lee was similarly fallacious.  It makes not one iota of difference that Lee was a commissioned Army officer, graduate of West Point or served in the Mexican War.  He also renounced that commission, and engaged in outright sedition. I suppose I must note for people like O’Connor that that the primary purpose of that war was to continue the enslavement and abuse of human beings. He was a traitor, simple as that. The fact that he was not always a traitor is irrelevant, just as Hitler’s service as a corporal in the German army in WWI does not absolve him of his later deeds.

But by far his most egregious contention was to, like our misguided President, repeat this notion of false equivalence between Neo-Nazis bearing swastikas and torches and spewing frankly racist and anti-Semitic chants and the anti-Nazi protesters. For the record, Mr. Connor and Mr. Trump should know that no “good person” participates in a rally with Nazis and white supremacists.  Any good person who might (misguidedly in my view) want to march in favor of these despicable monuments, but then found him/herself in a crowd of Nazis and white supremacists, would leave forthwith. Conversely, anyone who stays is, at best, an unwitting sympathizer with their deplorable views, and at least, an enabler or supporter of same. Simply put, there were not “good people” on both sides of the Charlottesville march, because it is simply not possible to be a good person in a march with Nazis. The two states are mutually exclusive. Furthermore, the people who came out to protest were almost all students and faculty at UVA, as well as concerned Charlottesville citizens. There were some Antifa people there too, but they in no way bear anywhere near the responsibility for the violence that ensued as do the neo-Nazi marchers–any more than one should blame the U.S. and Germany or the U.S. and Japan equally for the violence of WWII.

And finally, Black Lives Do Matter. No reasonable observer would fail to see that African-Americans continue to be treated worse than whites in this country.  I suspect the only reason for O’Connor’s disparagement of this group is that he, and others who hold similar views, are not reasonable.

Benjamin G. Neel, MD, PhD

Longboat Key

 

New Town Manager Tom Harmer

To: Editor

We are losing Dave Bullock, the highly esteemed Town Manager who will be replaced by Tom Harmer who is currently the Administrator for Sarasota County and whose esteem rating is yet to be determined.

Harmer has been a key player in the “screw job” that is being inflicted on taxpayers in order to fund the Atlanta Braves Spring Training project in Northport, Sarasota County.

The Braves have been looking for a “deal” on a new facility for several years.

Their current site is in Orlando, which was obviously not interested in a deal so they tried Palm Beach County which told them to take a hike and were subsequently rebuffed twice by Collier County (Naples).

However, they have been welcomed with open arms by the “easy marks” in Sarasota County who see no problem with spending millions of taxpayer dollars to support the business endeavors of billionaire major league baseball owners and multi millionaire players.

As best as I can compute based on reports in the Sarasota Herald and elsewhere the taxpayer funding for this boondoggle is as follows:

• $20 million from the Florida Sports Foundation which is partially funded by taxpayers and which

makes grants to special interest groups like the Atlanta Braves.

• Another $20 million comes from the Tourism Tax paid by guests who stay in hotels and motels and which can only be used to fund special interest groups rather than going into general revenues which would support worthy interests such as schools and provide relief for overburdened taxpayers.

According to the Herald the amount granted was just below that which would have required taxpayer approval by a public referendum. Sneaky!

• West Villages is donating land worth $7 to $9 million and paying for all improvements and Northport another $3 to $5 million for maintenance of $300,000 a year.

In the September 2 issue of the Herald Mr. Harmer offered comments in which he lauded this taxpayer funded rip-off enabled by people who are supposed to be looking out for the well being of constituents and not those of special interests.

As a taxpayer in Longboat Key I would suggest to Mr. Harmer along with Town Commissioners that they turn their attention to reducing the current tax burden that already exists by considering us taxpayers as a Special Interest Group.

William Allen

Longboat Key

 

Deadbeat Developer

To: Vice Mayor Ed Zunz

What can be done to either force the deadbeat developer, at tbe Shore restaurant site, to quickly  complete construction, or abandon the site and remove the unsightly foundation walls that negatively impact the village ambiance and local real estate values.

Gene Jaleski 

Longboat Key

 

Hurricane Irma Update 2

To: Town Commission

The storm track as shown below in the weather update (at the bottom of this email) has been migrating to the east, Town staff continues to prepare for potentially damaging winds and flooding. We are 3-4 days out from feeling the effects of Irma. At this time it seems pretty certain areas of Florida will be significantly impacted by this storm. We are in contact with both counties and will coordinate any Town action with them.

The Town continues to make sand bags available to our residents and visitors at Broadway beach access. We have Public Works staff at the site assuring Longboat Key residents and visitors are the ones getting the sand bags.

We have prepared our equipment and generators if needed and reviewed all the storm preparation and response plans. Department heads are making sure our employees have taken care of their homes so they are available when we need them here.

Fire and Police have arranged for additional personnel if needed. We will determine the appropriate response as the storm track gets clearer.

Both counties and nearby cities are setting closures and shelter plans.  We remain hopeful that the storm will be an east coast event but we will continue to plan as if we are in the path.  We will likely experience tropical storm force winds and heavy rain.

At this time no decisions have been made by either county as to evacuation. There will be shelters open on the mainland.

It would be prudent to call an emergency meeting tomorrow to consider a Town declaration of emergency. The state and federal government has already done so and I expect both counties to do so soon.  You will each be contacted to find a time that works for the majority.

Please continue to watch the weather forecasts to understand the storm track and intensity as they can change any time.  Some of you may recall that hurricane Charlie took an unexpected right turn into Charlotte Harbor a few years back.

Dave Bullock

Town Manager

Longboat Key 

 

Cortez Bridge Alternatives

To: Town Manager Dave Bullock, Mayor Terry Gans

I don’t agree with the Town’s position with respect to the Cortez Bridge Replacement Alternatives, namely, that the State should build a 65-foot high fixed bridge.

Really it’s hard to compare the Ringling Causeway Bridge that connects the barrier islands to downtown Sarasota and to a major metropolitan area with one that connects the mainland to a dead end, small barrier island with one, two lane road traversing beach resort towns crammed with tourists and pedestrians.

The scale is completely different. The Ringling Causeway Bridge is 3,000 feet in length and 106 feet in width with a 60-foot clearance above the water and the Cortez Bridge is 2,617 feet in length with a 17-foot clearance. The proposed width under both build alternatives is 68 feet.

The average daily traffic on the Ringling Causeway Bridge is 36,000 in 2013 and on the Cortez Bridge 13,800 in 2014.

The 65 foot fixed bridge alternative is overkill, especially for a seasonal location where for a good part of the year traffic is acceptable. The Cortez Bridge is not a commuter route nor should it be used as a shortcut through Longboat Key so saving a few minutes on a typical trip between a 65-foot high bridge and a 35-foot high bridge is not terribly important if it is even really going to happen. Traffic projections and travel times are notoriously imprecise.  However, if the Town wants to induce more commuter traffic through Longboat Key, by recommending a 65 foot fixed span bridge then you are free to advocate that position – don’t think Longboat Key residents would agree.

Also, judging from the comments by Anna Marie Island residents, they are resolutely opposed to a 65-foot high fixed bridge which they believe is out of scale with the surrounding neighborhood and would be a threat to the historic character of the Cortez fishing village. This bridge alternative would require a longer bridge touchdown point at the eastern span and a road end around to access a charming restaurant that would be cut off from direct access from Cortez Road.

Of course, these residents are advocating a new bridge connection from 53rd Avenue/Route 70 onto Longboat Key as an alternative to bearing the brunt of Anna Marie Island traffic congestion from the Cortez Bridge. Maybe they would like to shift the burden of accommodating the impacts of Las Flores and Aqua by the Bay future development with about 9,500 new residential units and millions of square feet of commercial buildings.

A 35-foot high bascule bridge build alternative is reasonable. Yes, the bridge will open for boats, less so than with the existing bridge, but that’s how you know you are entering or leaving an island. If we want to cooperate with our fellow barrier islanders to address common problems it is best not to poke them in the eye. Indeed the 65 foot high fixed span bridge alternative will be an eyesore.

I have attached my comments to FDOT.

Larry Grossman

Longboat Key

 

Comments on Cortez Bridge Alternatives

To: Town Commission

I testified at the August 31st hearing at the Kirkwood Church and I am following up with my written comments.

I prefer the 35-foot bascule bridge. Although this alternative would require bridge openings the design profile maintains a low scale compatible with its surroundings and a less intrusive footprint than the 65 foot fixed bridge alternative.

Conversely, the 65-foot bridge alternative has too high a profile and is not compatible with the character of Anna Marie Island or of the Historic Fishing Village of Cortez. The eastern touchdown point of the 65-foot bridge would require a separate roadway connection to the restaurant south of the bridge requiring more roadway and indirect access.

3. I am concerned that the Cortez Bridge Replacement Project is proceeding without benefit of the Barrier Island Traffic Study. This study should consider future travel demands across the bridge and how that projected demand might best be accommodated. The study might consider the possibility of jitney or small transit vehicle shuttles from nearby developments and from remote off island parking facilities. Your study seems to conclude that any form of mass transit is not beneficial or effective. However, given that there has been over 10,000 homes approved along Cortez Road, 75th Street and along El Conquistador Parkway the question is how future traffic destined to the beaches can be accommodated without demand management strategies that might give preference to higher occupancy vehicles and reduce congestion on the bridge and on the island as well as contain parking demand. Autonomous vehicles will also be a consideration as part of the vehicle fleet.

4. FDOT might consider allowing the two breakdown lanes on the proposed bridge to be used by higher occupancy vehicles with preference at the signalized intersection with Gulf Drive. I would place all bicyclists inside the barrier and share the 10-foot pedestrian/bike lanes. This separates and protects the bicyclists from the moving vehicles and frees up the breakdown/emergency vehicle lanes for special purpose vehicles. The cross section could be four 11-foot lanes instead of two 12-foot traffic lanes and two 10-foot breakdown lanes.

5. The bridge should not be merely a highway connection to Anna Maria Island. Cortez Bridge is an entranceway to a beautiful barrier island and beach resort with great character and charm. Dramatic lighting, themed railings and other features of the bridge such as viewing cutouts and fishing stations should provide a design transition from Cortez Avenue to the Island.

Appreciate your consideration of my comments.

Larry Grossman

Longboat Key 

 

Cortez Bridge LBK Comments to FDOT

To: Town Commission

The attached (below) are the draft written comments on behalf of the Town that I am planning to send to FDOT as our formal comment on the replacement for Cortez Bridge.  If you have comments please let me know. Comments are due early next week. We will plan to send later this week. This was prepared by Isaac Brownman following the FDOT public hearing last week.

Dave Bullock

Town Manager

Longboat Key

 

To: Florida Department of Transportation

The Town of Longboat Key strongly endorses the 65-foot high fixed bridge option and encourages FDOT to move forward with this alternative.

The fixed span bridge provides a significant reduction in travel time delay related to bridge openings and maintenance interruptions, which has a positive impact to barrier island residents and visitors coming from and going to island areas north and south of Cortez Road.  Neither drawbridge alternatives offer the same or similar travel time improvements.

This section of Cortez Road is part of a Hurricane Evacuation Route.  The 65-foot fixed span bridge provides greater assurance of operability and vehicular clearance during and after a strong storm event.

The 65-foot fixed span bridge makes the most business and financial sense based on initial capital costs and substantial long-term maintenance costs in providing a reliable 75-year piece of critical infrastructure.  It also minimizes construction impacts as compared to the no build/repair scenario as presented.

The fixed span bridge provides uninterrupted pedestrian and bicycle access, while allowing 98% of vessels to pass underneath, based on the study sample data.  In fact, higher fixed span bridges offer unexpected recreation opportunities for residents and visitors.  For example, one cannot pass over the John Ringling fixed span bridge without seeing people walking and enjoying the view during every daylight hour.

In addition, the rendered concepts shown at the public hearing illustrate the space under the bridge becoming a useable public amenity and recreation space as well, as offering a much more efficient component of the roadway network by connecting 127th Street West to the south without having to cross Cortez Road.

Other communities have seen high fixed span bridges replace drawbridges with great success.  For example, the City of Sarasota went from initially objecting to the higher fixed span bridge (during the planning process) to embracing it as a defining element of their city. The John Ringling Causeway is now considered an iconic landmark and is a prominent and celebrated component of the Sarasota landscape.

The conceptual renderings illustrate minimizing impacts related to the bridge approach and touchdown areas, and in fact, helps to allow for the 127th Street West connection underneath mentioned earlier.

It is recognized that the entire area near and accessing the bridge, both mainland and barrier islands, provide a substantial economic benefit by being premier tourist destinations.  We appreciate the FDOT’s careful analysis of options, and we applaud the FDOT’s efforts to find solutions to improve travel times while enhancing the public’s experience on and around the bridge and also simultaneously pursuing the best alternative for a long-term, functionally reliable piece of critical infrastructure.  We believe the 65-foot fixed span bridge provides the best option to accomplish all those components, and makes the most business sense as presented.

We would recommend that, simultaneous to the bridge design and construction efforts, FDOT also review and improve the signalized intersection offset at Harbor Landings Drive/119th Street West @ Cortez Road, if not already in progress.  Once the alignment is improved, we would also recommend ensuring the best coordinated signal arrangement possible between this signal and the Gulf Drive North (SR 789) @ Cortez Road to the west of the bridge.

Town Commission

Town of Longboat Key

 

To: Town Manager Dave Bullock

As a final sentence in the last paragraph, I suggest adding:” Finally, we recommend that FDOT consider a roundabout at this intersection.”

Jack Daly

Commissioner

Longboat Key

 

To: Town Manager Dave Bullock

Comments:

Paragraph 2   “alternatives” should be singular “alternative”.

 

Paragraph 8   The repetition of the 127th street connection is unnecessary

 

Paragraph 9   The first sentence is confusing and unnecessary

 

Would suggest the following —

We appreciate the FDOT’s careful analysis of options, and we applaud the FDOT’s efforts to find solutions to improve travel times while enhancing the public’s experience on and around the bridge and also simultaneously pursuing the best alternative for a long-term, functionally reliable piece of critical infrastructure—be reworded to:  We appreciate FDOT’s careful analysis of options.  We applaud FDOT’s simultaneous effort to find solutions to improve travel times, to enhance the public’s experience on and around the bridge, and to pursue the best alternative etc.

Paragraph 10  Would use “concurrent” in place of simultaneous.

Overall, a good statement.

Terry Gans

Mayor

Longboat Key

 

Cortez Bridge LBK Comments to FDOT

To: Mayor Terry Gans

Got it. Good catch

Dave Bullock

Town Manager

Longboat Key

 

 

 

 

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