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Editorial Letters – Week ending September 18, 2020

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 Longboat Key Town Hall that address Longboat Key issues as well as Sarasota City Hall that address Sarasota issues. We reserve the right to edit.

Barwin and the homeless

To: Sarasota City Commission

In the 9/4/20 Sarasota City News edition a letter by Tom Barwin, City Manager, to Alex Koutelias, Barwin crows, then claims, the city for four years has worked with partner agencies “resulting in several hundred homeless being housed.” Barwin then states, “The city has invested millions with several more millions in the pipeline.” This is failure. Just more of Barwin’s lack of financial acumen and utter disregard for the Sarasota taxpayer. Doing conservative math this equals $20,000 per homeless person ($4 million divided by 200). Where is the supporting data that the recipients achieved permanent or any unsubsidized housing independence and their known whereabouts?  Have they become permanent wards of the city?

Does this well-intentioned effort make economic sense? Is it really compassionate? The city taxpayers prefer free job training costing a fraction of the price. Commissioners, teach a person a trade or skill and they can support themselves for life with dignity. Isn’t this the ultimate goal?

Robert Livingston

Sarasota

 

Congress and the Techies

To: Editor

When I was at the end of my senior year in college the History Professor, whose name was Harold Carr offered the class some career counseling which has remained with me for these many years. He said that if you are ambitious and willing to work hard you should consider a career in Corporate America, start your own business and work for yourself in a chosen profession.

If the above attributes do not describe you, he suggested working in Public Sector as a bureaucrat or a politician. I was thinking of this today when I heard a podcast of the House of Representatives conducting a hearing related to allegations that the big Tech companies are anti-competitive. The CEOs of these companies including Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg were

the intended victims.

I had previously heard a similar event also conducted by Democrats some time ago when one of the attackers was a woman Congressperson from California named Walters. She asked Zuckerberg if his company charged customers for the use of his services. He answered “no.” She then asked him how Facebook made money if they did not charge. He replied, “We advertise ma’am.”

In the podcast today the head of the House Judiciary Committee whose name is Nadler launched an attack on Zuckerberg based on the fact that Facebook had bought Instagram. He asked Zuckerberg if the buyout was intended to improve his competitive position in the marketplace (duh) and Zuckerberg replied affirmatively. Nadler then went on a rant about this until Zuckerberg pointed out to him that the acquisition had been approved by the Obama administration. I think that my Professor was right.

William Allen

Longboat Key

 

Planning and Zoning Board expansion

To: Longboat Key Commissioner BJ Bishop

I was confused and embarrassed by your comments during the Commission Meeting today regarding my letter suggesting an expansion of the Planning and Zoning Board (and inspectors) may help building code violations be detected.  In spite of the civility pledge that you insist upon, you stated that the author of that letter (mine) had been advocating for reducing the board a couple years ago and that it caused a lot of angst.  I have no idea what you are talking about.  I have never weighed in on the size of PZB.  I was affronted by your comments that appeared to have been made solely to discredit my recommendation that PZB get some help.  I thought your comments were an attempt at humor at someone’s expense.  More importantly, you had the wrong person.

Lynn Cook

Longboat Key

 

Planning and Zoning Board expansion

To: Lynn Cook

Clearly you did not listen. The commission enacted a reduction in the Planning and Zoning Board from 9 to 7 members a couple of years ago. No one from the public stood up at that time.

BJ Bishop

Commissioner

Longboat Key

 

Planning and Zoning Board expansion

To: Longboat Key Commissioner BJ Bishop

“Clearly you did not listen” is what is called “you” language, an aggressive, overly-responsible communication style.  Again, not civil.

Lynn Cook

Longboat Key

 

Planning and Zoning Board expansion

To: Longboat Key Commissioner BJ Bishop

Given today, why on earth would anyone from the public stand up when contractors rule?

Lynn Cook

Longboat Key

 

Planning and Zoning Board expansion

To: Longboat Key Commissioner BJ Bishop

If you are upset that I reminded the commission of their action to shrink the P and Z Board I am sorry.

Lynn Cook

Longboat Key

 

Planning and Zoning Board expansion

To: Lynn Cook

No need to communicate further. You did not hear my remarks that the Commission shrunk the P and Z Board and you disagree with my position about this issue. Sorry you took offense.

BJ Bishop

Commissioner

Longboat Key

 

Bars set to open

To: Longboat Key Commission

Commissioners, FYI. The State issued a new executive order late yesterday allowing bars to reopen at 50 percent capacity as of Monday, September 14th.

Tom Harmer

Town Manager

Longboat Key

 

Yesterday’s meeting

To: ManaSota League members

I want to express my sincere appreciation for the kind remarks yesterday about my work with the League.  I have enjoyed working with ManaSota League for many years, and still enjoy it, the work itself, and especially the members I have had the pleasure of meeting over the years.

Thank you for the increased compensation for coordinating the League, and look forward to continuing. I also thank Trish Shinkle who is always there for me (and us) with suggestions, advice, and support.  I am also thankful for Trish providing the assistance of Savannah Cox for helping out.

Gail Loeffler

Administrative Coordinator

ManaSota League of Cities, Inc.

 

Yesterday’s meeting

To: Gail Loeffler

Good morning and I to did enjoy yesterday’s meeting I  was never sure if I were being  heard but I did attend the meeting and The work  that Gaile has performed for and the service that she has provided  the Manasota League of Cities is outstanding  And I concur with the  decision  made.

Willie Charles Shaw

Commissioner

City of Sarasota

 

Daylight plane ordinance

To: John Forch

The ordinance was not acted on at the last meeting and was stalled.  I spoke with BJ Bishop who is the person behind the intent of this ordinance.  She said the daylight plane would remain as it is but the ordinance and supporting documents from the staff are the same.  Supporting changes and all the things we did not like before.

Lynn Larson

Longboat Key

 

Daylight plane ordinance

To: Longboat Key Mayor Ken Schneier

I cannot attend the meeting on Monday. I have previously submitted my reasons, comments and opposition to a change in the daylight plane ordinance. Is Lynn correct that the ordinance will not change?

John Forch

Longboat Key

 

Daylight plane ordinance

To: John Forch

As the matter was tabled at our last meeting due to time pressures, the same proposal is before us on Monday.  However, the clear consensus among Commissioners was to leave the Daylight Plane requirements as they currently exist but to approve the portion of the proposal that increases buffering requirements going forward between tall and short residences.

Ken Schneier

Mayor

Longboat Key

 

Unconditional Surrender Survey

To: Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin

Can I get an update on whether the survey of locations is ready and if so, where it can be found.

Liz Alpert

Commissioner

City of Sarasota

 

Unconditional Surrender Survey

To: Sarasota Commissioner Liz Alpert

Almost ready.  Will likely be up by Friday, first in Friday briefs, then promoted via social media and likely also on city website.

Tom Barwin

City Manager

City of Sarasota

 

Right of way?

To: Sarasota Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown

I quite rightly got a call from the city during my brief campaign about signs that violated city code. I’m not certain but I think this eyesore might come into that category too. It’s at the corner of Orange and Mound. If I’m right can I assume it’ll be removed forthwith lest anyone thinks different rules apply to different people? If I’m wrong by all means tell me I’m wrong as I’m asking here, not telling.

Martin Hyde

Sarasota

 

Right of way?

To: Martin Hyde

I’ll have staff verify if it is in the right of way or not. Thanks.

Marlon Brown

Deputy City Manager

City of Sarasota

 

Right of way?

To: Sarasota Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown

This is clearly on the same property line as a traffic sign which you can see in the picture. If it’s not moved by lunchtime tomorrow. I’ll post it with a comparison to how the City is treating the lady with the ice cream truck in Gillespie park. A bit like the raises for management such an attitude in the current circumstance is to quote Commissioner Brody “Tone deaf”

It’s as pathetic of Commissioner Alpert to defend it as it is for you to condone it.

There’s a significant chance of an end to an era on November 3rd in case you hadn’t noticed.

Martin Hyde

Sarasota

 

Event Guidelines for Weddings from Nicole Kaney

To: Sarasota City Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

I hope you are well! It’s been forever since I have seen you!

I was hoping for some guidance with weddings. We have some local venues in Sarasota that are only allowing 50 guests while 100% outdoors. That is not how I am reading the suggestions from the FL Dept of Health.

Our industry is devastated and we want to work. We have clients that want to get married safely, but the venues say the guidelines don’t allow more than 50 people. I’m looking at the rules as 100% capacity outdoors with socially distanced.

I have been talking with planners from all over the U.S. and their cities are putting policies into place so there are clear rules on what the Industry is allowed.

Myself and other planners are working with local officials draft comprehensive and clear policies for gatherings using best practices aggregated from a study of over 100+ global policies. We have been able to assist Miami-Dade County with their Phase 2 reopening and would like to extend that same service to you before our season starts in the next month.

Our hope is that clear guidance that is prominently shared with the public will curtail future outbreaks and allow the event sector to safely resume business.

Driving can be dangerous if there were no rules of the road. Create lanes, stop signs, issue some speeding tickets for gatherings and they can be safe too.

Thank you for your consideration and looking forward to working with you on the revisions.

Nicole Kaney

Sarasota

 

Event Guidelines for Weddings from Nicole Kaney

To: Nicole Kaney

It has been a long time! I hope you are well! I didn’t know you were still in Sarasota, I thought you had moved away for some reason.

In any case, I have copied the City Attorney and City Manager’s office on this email to respond to your questions below and I am confident they will reply soon.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Cameras at Thorpe Park

To: Sarasota City Commission

There is constant open drug dealing at Thorpe park which we guess the city does not want to concern itself with. City officials need to start addressing this or it will be time to go public. No reason we have to sit on the patio and watch and listen. Watch good citizens avoid the park. You have not even had the courtesy to respond to our concerns.

Don Costantino

Sarasota

 

Cameras at Thorpe Park

To: Don Costantino

I have been monitoring all of your emails. I have noted that you have been getting a response to your emails with more patrols, etc. so, did not think it was necessary for me to continue to weigh in. I know that it has been mentioned before, that one of the things that would help is more activation of the park by the residents. I think the pandemic which is discouraging the activity on the street has not helped. With this email, I am asking staff to give me an update on where we are with this situation.

Liz Alpert

Commissioner

City of Sarasota

 

Cameras at Thorpe Park

To: Sarasota City Commission

Maybe the city can install a couple of very visible street cameras at the park. Might help curb illegal activities and allow park to be monitored.

Don Costantino

Sarasota

 

Cameras at Thorpe Park

To: Sarasota City Staff

What would be involved in getting cameras in the park?

Liz Alpert

City Commissioner

City of Sarasota

 

City Manager’s promise to keep Unconditional Surrender

To: Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin

Please advise whether you advised Congressman Buchanan that the statue would be returned to the Bayfront after the roundabout construction?

At the September 8, 2020 RCC Meeting this commission unanimously directed staff to provide a survey on the city’s website, to give the entire community an opportunity to vote on their choice for the statue’s final resting place.

The Congressman’s tweet gives the direct impression that you have committed to returning the statue to the bay without the survey that the commission directed. Please advise whether the Congressman’s tweet is correct.

Shelli Freeland Eddie

Commissioner

City of Sarasota

 

City Manager’s promise to keep Unconditional Surrender

To: Sarasota City Commissioner Tom Barwin

No and no.  Bob’s comments are accurate.  Thanks.

Tom Barwin

City Manager

City of Sarasota

 

City Manager’s promise to keep Unconditional Surrender

To: Sarasota Communications Manager Jan Thornburg

Please send me Barwin’s statement on his conversation with the congressman as soon as it’s ready to be released. Thank you.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Keep the statue

To: Sarasota City Commission, U.S. Congressman Vern Buchanan

I’m a veteran. Retired combat 100% disabled. I hate that statue with all of my being. Of course, as someone that was raped in the military, sexually harassed for 16 months by a superior and then attacked by him, I have plenty of reason to hate it. A lot of people have no idea that that sailor had never met that woman before and kissed her without warning. Her body language reveals her unwillingness to be kissed by a perfect stranger. The statue is vile and to me and others like me, signifies how men view women…as objects, not a celebration of anything. Absolutely hate it. You should get the opinions of female veterans.

Marci L Ficht, SSG (ret)

Sarasota

 

COVID 19 Testing Numbers

To: Editor

In the September 11, 2020 Longboat Key News publication there was an editorial opinion on COVID-19 case numbers that are being reported to the public.  Based on that editorial, I thought it would be helpful to highlight how the information is being reported for Longboat Key and how we monitor that information.

Since we are in two counties there is a bit of a challenge on how the numbers are displayed or provided, especially for the public. The data is collected, published, and maintained by the Florida Department of Health. The information is updated daily and publicly shared on the State website at floridahealthcovid19.gov. The information is published at the State level, County level, and ZIP Code level.  Fortunately, the Town is in one ZIP Code; unfortunately, the Town is split into two counties so we have to track it as two pieces to get the whole picture.   

We have been advised that the State website currently lists total cumulative numbers in each ZIP Code. Their current data reflects less than a total of five total positive test results in the Sarasota County portion of the Town and 30 total cases in the Manatee County portion.  Those numbers go back to March when the virus was first detected, and started being tracked in our area.

In addition to the Florida Department of Health website, Sarasota County has created a daily “heat map” for positive test results spanning the last 14 days. This is designed to highlight a more current status for active virus transmission in the community, and the areas where transmissions are most active. Their heat map is ZIP Code based but only reflects, in our case, the Sarasota County portion.  As of today, this map currently reflects 0 active cases being tracked in our ZIP Code. Although Manatee County does not provide the same type of daily map they are providing weekly updates on the number of active positives over the past 10 days in their portion of the Town. They have indicated that there are currently two active positives that they are tracking.   We have asked both counties to collaborate on a single reporting format on current positives on the island but have not yet been successful.

There have been questions in the media about the accuracy of the data. There have also been questions about why we don’t have more information about specific individuals.   Federal laws regarding individual health information prohibit the communication of an individual’s medical conditions (HIPPA laws).  As mentioned, the data we receive is only at the ZIP Code level or higher.

We don’t control the data, only monitor and report it.  We don’t focus so much on the daily numbers, or just one data set, but use all available data to help determine what level of active virus activity is in the area and what the trends are. Is it increasing, decreasing, spiking, localized, etc.?  We also closely monitor the bed capacity of the hospitals and their ability to adapt to increase in cases.

To monitor these conditions, we review the Sarasota County Heat Map, participate in weekly calls with Sarasota County Emergency Management and Public Health Officials, receive weekly updates from Manatee County public health officials, as well as review daily hospital bed reports and daily testing and new deaths data available on the State website. This information has proven to be helpful as we consider what actions we should take locally. The Town Manager Executive Orders enumerate protective measures, and emergency response taken specifically at the Longboat Key level, are effective for 2-week periods. Each Order is based on an evaluation of all local COVID-19 data, then the Town’s next 2-week course of action is set, and announced.

After the initial infections back in March, the Town has been fortunate to see relatively low numbers compared to the areas around us. Both counties are also experiencing a downward trend in numbers of new positives and the % positives in new testing.  For example, on Thursday, September 17th Sarasota County had a one-day increase of 43, and Manatee County had a one day increase of 56.  Compare that to two months earlier on July 17th when Sarasota County experienced an additional 156 new positives and Manatee County experienced an additional 219. The overall percent of new positives has also been trending down and was at 3.30% in Sarasota County on September 17th and at 3.37% in Manatee County, compared to the current overall cumulative percent of 8.56% and 10.78%.

This is good news for our area overall – but we continue evaluating available sources of information and new testing data, especially after the Labor Day weekend, the return of students to the public-school system, and recent re-opening of bars throughout the State and counties to make sure this downward trend continues rather than spike again following past re-openings, and holidays.

Compared to the rest of our region, our community has responded well.  We have had extended periods of time with no active cases on the island.  We know our population is more vulnerable than many and we have been very careful and pro-active in in our restrictions and encourage compliance with CDC recommendations, and the Town’s mask ordinance adopted on July 2, then re-established for August 31 through November 30, 2020.

We are committed to diligently monitor all information available to us, and to continue to take actions necessary to protect our community.

Sincerely,

Tom Harmer

Town Manager

Longboat Key

 

Unconditional Surrender must go

To: Sarasota City Commission

As your constituent on Prospect Street, I am strongly urging you to return the piece to its donor. The sculpture has no connection to Sarasota whatsoever, is questioned by Sarasota artists as to whether it is really art worthy of our City, and depicts joy on the part of the giver but sexual harassment on the receiver. The veterans who “like” it can see it elsewhere; perhaps at the Shriners, a private property.

Sarasota has a rich variety of local art and historic landmarks that do credit to our town and will continue to draw tourists.

When Vern Buchanan supports its retention, he’s pandering to the veterans who live here. The local Art community has disagreed with its presence as City landmark from the beginning 10 years ago. Please do the right thing and send the statue back. Thank you for listening.

Allen Wurzbach

Sarasota

 

Unconditional Surrender must go

To: Allen Wurzbach

Thank you Allen Wurzbach for your input on Unconditional Surrender. I appreciate you taking the time to reach out to me.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Statue represents unwelcomed assault

To: Sarasota City Commission

I am writing in reference to the “Unconditional Surrender” statue. The statue poses two issues. The first is traffic problems I see from traveling by it three times a week. People slowing down abruptly to see the statue or take pictures.  Unfortunately, I see people speed in that very congested area and accidents surely have occurred because of this.

My personal feelings on the statue comes from several incidents of sexual assault and harassment I endured while in the military that was never handled properly due to the culture we live in.

The statue represents for me unwelcomed assault.

The woman represented in the statue didn’t know the man assaulting her and she stated she didn’t welcome it. Many people don’t know this in our area. If that happened today would we still think it should be glorified?

I believe before we get public opinion we should highlight the ramifications for those who suffered assault, that might be triggered by it.

Please consider this carefully but most importantly make the public aware of concerns on both sides before gathering opinions. If we know better, we do better.

Darsana

Sarasota

 

Statue represents unwelcomed assault

To: Darsana

Thank you for your email and input on Unconditional Surrender. I do appreciate you taking the time to contact me with your thoughts.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Karate and mask wearing

To: Sensei Camacho

Thank you for the email asking for clarification on mask-wearing for kids in the dojo and while training karate.

It is my understanding that mask-wearing is mandatory in the City of Sarasota (and the dojo is in the City). However, there are exceptions for children under 18 years old. The effort to change this from under 18 yrs. to 6 yrs. failed to pass at the Commission (2-3). So, it is up to the parents to decide if the children should wear masks. The adults in the dojo, however, must wear masks (because the six feet social distancing the entire time in the dojo is not possible).

I have copied the City Attorney and Deputy City Manager on this email for further clarification. I have also copied Dr. Gordillo, Dr. Fiorica, and Dr. Hill from Sarasota Memorial Hospital as well to provide additional advice and recommendations.

It is always best to wear masks, not only for yourself but for others as well.

For the moment, it is the best tool we have for preventing the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

In addition, hand hygiene and physical distancing are key as well.

With schools opening up now, in-person, I think it is wise to be particularly careful. I look forward, though, to the follow-up email from the experts copied on this response. Thank you again for reaching out to me! Stay safe!

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Support the Hospitality Industry

To: Sarasota City Commission

I support small businesses during a pandemic and I ask that you do the same. Sarasota’s hospitality industry is vital to our economy and I do not support increasing fines against them at a time when they’re working so hard to stay afloat. We can’t afford to lose this industry!

Good morning it’s time I get to   These drafts I am so impressed with our staff thank you for the work that you do.

Ricardo Ruiz del Vizo

Sarasota

 

Tom Barwin as Strong Mayor

To: Sarasota City Commission

When did Tom Barwin get elected our “strong Mayor?” The man has no power to make policy decisions (like the sailor statue) — except that power that you all cede to him. And — we all know this man — he will grab as much as you let him.

Way past time to do more than just slap him on the wrist. Barwin should be publicly reprimanded and fired immediately. Do your jobs.

Pete Tannen

Sarasota

 

Time Sensitive Question about Citizen Input at City Meetings

To: Sarasota City Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

Good morning: My name is Elizabeth Rose and I am a resident of the city of Sarasota.  I am writing to find out how visuals can be presented by citizens during remote meetings.  I know the Elevated Monitor is in the Chambers, but if citizens have to present from the SRQ Media Studio, Room 112 or from home via electronic transmission, how do we show visuals?  They are an important, effective and efficient way of making a point and much more effective than words.

A recent Notice of Public Hearing I received in the mail notes that comments may be emailed in advance, but does not address supplemental visual aids.  All citizens should be provided instructions on how to present visuals during meetings if we are prohibited from entering Chambers.

My apologies for including such a wide distribution list on this message, but wasn’t sure to whom I should address this question.  Thank you for reading this message and providing a prompt response.

Elizabeth Rose

Sarasota

 

Time Sensitive Question about Citizen Input at City Meetings

To: Elizabeth Rose

Thanks for the email regarding presentations at City Commission meetings. I have copied the City Auditor and Clerk and Mr. Larsen on this email to respond.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Selby Gardens

To: Sarasota City Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

As a 20-year resident of Sarasota and a neighbor to Selby Gardens, I have enjoyed living here until recently. The City has vacated streets to private entities before, very rarely with the public’s benefit in mind. I am adamantly opposed to the vacation of Palm Avenue. Why? An enormous parking garage is bizarre. Thank you for vacating public land.

Ellen Miller

Sarasota

 

Selby Gardens

To: Ellen Miller

Thank you for your email and input on Selby Gardens and specifically the street vacation.

I do appreciate you taking the time to contact me! Just an FYI but this will go before the Planning Board on September 22, 2020 and if you register ahead of time you will have the opportunity to give public input. You can contact the City Auditor and Clerk Shayla Griggs for more information (her office is copied on this email).

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Selby Gardens

To: Ellen Miller

I just want to clarify that in order to speak or give input to the Planning Board, you must contact the Planning Department rather than the City Auditor and Clerk’s Office.  They provide support to the Planning Board and can give you information on participating in the Selby Gardens hearing, should you wish to do so. I have copied Planning staff herein for their information.

Lori Rivers

Deputy City Auditor and Clerk

City of Sarasota

 

Selby Gardens

To: Sarasota Deputy City Clerk Lori Rivers

Thank you, Lori for the correction, and I’ll make a note of that should others contact me. Sorry for the confusion.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

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