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Editorial Letters – Week ending September 25, 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.

Longbeach Village Resident-Only Parking

To: Longboat Key Planning and Zoning Director Allen Parsons

Allen, thank you for sharing your draft of the Longbeach Village resident-only parking ordinance. I appreciate your giving us an opportunity to comment. I think the essence of your draft captures the needs of the village inhabitants and satisfies the provisions needed that would solve the parking issues in the Village – which have existed for some time and have multiplied over the past two years.

Please find below a few relatively minor suggested edits that I think improves the ordinance by clarifying some definitions. By copying the mayor, vice-mayor and commissioners I would appreciate your support of these few changes.

Pages 2-3 Section B – Combine the Definition sections of Property Owner and Resident to ‘Resident’, using your existing definition for ‘Resident’ as found on page 3: “A person who lawfully resides within the Resident-Only Parking Permit area.” Drop all easily misconstrued references to ‘owners’ (e.g. Page 3 Section D1 and D1a). Only people who actually reside in the Village need be included.

Rationale: The resident parking program is to provide relief for people residing in Longbeach Village. Owners of empty lots and not used homes have no need for parking permits. While the term resident to some might imply a legal voting eligible citizen or domicile, we can define resident to be an owner or a tenant who is physically ‘residing’ in Longbeach Village in the home for which the permit is issued.

Page 3 Section B (last paragraph) – Consider changing “Temporary Parking Permit” to “Temporary Suspension”; and the definition of it to “A temporary suspension of the requirement for having parking decals and stickers for a single date and time upon request by residents for special non-commercial event parking, … (rest as you have).” Please include “non-commercial” in this paragraph and also in Section D5 and E3. Possible steps could be:

1. Call police dept or designated town staff.

2. State resident name, day, time and address of special event.

3. Limit of once a month for a special (always non-commercial) event.

Rationale: It should be convenient for Village residents to have parties and meetings without involving the town having to issue decals. A simple phone call alerting the Longboat Police should suffice. For example, if you, Allen Parsons, are invited to a LBVA meeting you should not need to expend the time and inconvenience of obtaining a guest parking decal for this event. Another example is if a resident plans a once a year holiday party, the resident should not have to secure 25-50 guest decals. Let’s make this as simple and easy as possible. Other examples could be charity house tours, open houses, painting shows, etc. Simplifying this special event process would greatly reduce the administrative time and expense for both the town and Longbeach Village residents.

Thank you very much for considering these changes. As always, I appreciate that you have given us an opportunity to comment – and also that you have welcomed our suggestions in a very understanding manner. In the subsequent implementation phase of this ordinance I would like to discuss signage options with you.

We all look forward anxiously to the implementation of this ordinance. Thanks very much for all you have done in pulling this together.

Pete Rowan

Longboat Key

  

Certified Lightning Protection Systems Installers

To: Longboat Key Mayor Ken Schneier

In the recent commission meeting on Ordinance 2020-05, the applicant John Barber referred to how few Certified LPS installers there are and that it is expensive to employ them. He justified installation by electricians as the logical and economical alternative.  However, although Windemuller doesn’t employ the certified lightning installers Barber referred to, the website infers they do by displaying:

We are Licensed, Listed, Insured, Bonded and Certified

Choose your lightning protection installer carefully. When you hire a company to design and install your system, ask to see their credentials and check them out with licensing agencies. Windemuller is a certified, licensed and UL listed contractor with over 25 years experience. We have been serving Sarasota and the surrounding area since 1985. You never know where lightning will strike. But when it does, you want to know that your system was installed by certified installers using approved products can protect you and your house.

This last statement appears to contradict what he stated at the meeting. The certification that Windemuller cites appears to be one certified electrician not a certified installer.  Mr. Barber lamented the fact that there are so few of these experts during the last commission meeting and that it would be ideal to use such.  If safety is truly the factor influencing the raising of the maximum height limit in RF4 and RF6, it is critical to understand why the installation of LPSs matters.  Re-read the last line above from their website.

However, the knowledge that real certified installers have is easily accessible to you. Most of them work for Lighting Masters in Clearwater, something you can determine by using UL’s Product IQ search using a free online account.  In addition, Lightning Masters advertises as having “written the book on lightning”.  Weeks ago I sent a link to the town manager to make him aware that Lightning Masters could make a presentation that would educate staff and commissioners.

I urge you, for safety’s sake, to become familiar with the basics of lightning protection since misinformation has been provided by a commercial interest. I know the applicant and his company’s lawyer, treasurer and manufacturer are threatening obliquely to sue you for discrimination or to recover application fees.  Knowledge is power that you can use to support your decision and protect our height code as well as your liability.

Lynn Cook

Longboat Key

 

New Police Chief

To: Pete Cumming

Thank you for extending your time with the Town to insure a smooth transition for the new Chief. Your commitment to our Town is greatly appreciated. I will miss you!

BJ Bishop

Commissioner

Longboat Key

 

New Police Chief

To: Longboat Key Commissioner BJ Bishop

Thanks BJ. It’s a small adjustment to make and an easy decision for me. I will miss you and my relationship with our residents and employees. I’m confident Chief Smith will quickly fit in and hit the ground running, all my best to her. Thanks for reaching out!

Pete Cumming

Police Chief

Longboat Key

 

COVID-19 Executive Order on Longboat extended

To: Longboat Key Commission

The Town’s COVID 19 Administrative Executive Order has been extended for the next two weeks. Based on the continued downward trend in positive test results, the lower % testing for positive, and now that we are entering the Fall off-season, the beach access parking lots will be re-opened on Thursday, October 1st.  The public restrooms at Bayfront Park and Durante Park will also be re-opening at that same time.  We will continue to keep one section of parking on Broadway West of GMD closed for a limited period to evaluate beach traffic overflow.  The Police Department will be closely monitoring parking issues and pro-actively enforcing rights-of-way and illegal parking violations.  We are also adding tennis clinics and some additional courts to doubles play at the Tennis Center effective Monday, September 28th.  The Town will continue evaluating public forum permits for use of Town property on a case by case basis.  All other restrictions remain.

Obviously, all CDC and Health Department recommendations remain for social distancing, large gatherings, and the Town’s mandated mask ordinance continues into effect through at least November 30th. We continue to monitor available information on a daily basis and are prepared to take further actions as appropriate.

Thomas A. Harmer

Town Manager

Town of Longboat Key

 

New Police Chief Kelli Smith

To: Longboat Key Commission

Commissioner, FYI. Police Chief Kelli Smith successfully completed her conditional offer process and will be officially starting with the Town on Monday, October 26th.

Chief Cumming will be staying on board through Friday, October 23rd to assist with the transition. We have rescheduled Chief Cumming’s recognition to the October 19th Commission Workshop.

Thomas A. Harmer

Town Manager

Town of Longboat Key

 

Annual evaluations

To: Longboat Key Commission

The Town Manager and Town Attorney’s annual evaluations are being scheduled for the October 6, 2020 Regular Meeting.  I attached the cover memo for the October 5th meeting, an FYI list of highlights from FY20, and a copy of the evaluation form.

Feel free to contact Susan if you would also like a hard copy of the form.  She has asked that the completed forms be turned in by Monday, September 28th so they can be included in the October 5th Agenda Packet.

I have also attached the Town Attorney’s evaluation forms and her firm’s notice that they have waived this year’s contractual fee increase. I am available to discuss and/or answer any questions you may have in advance of the October meeting.

Thomas A. Harmer

Town Manager

Town of Longboat Key

   

LBK Resident Neighborhood concerns

To: Longboat Key Commissioners Jack Daly and Ed Zunz

I believe I live on a street that is right on the border of your districts. Since I am not certain which of you would be assigned to our street, I have copied you both.

We have lived on Tarawitt for many years, and we are concerned with some neighborhood activity.

In the plaza north of Harry’s corner store, there is a Backyard Bike Shop, WeNuzzle and Solarzanos Pizza. We have always had a great relationship with our residential neighbors as well as our commercial neighbors.

Recently though, the Solarzano’s pizza management has been trying our patience. We are not actually certain if they are doing something wrong, so I am writing to get some clarification.

This Solarzanos pizza business rents a space from an individual named Sean, who also owns the home across the canal from us on S. St Judes. The pizza staff have (from the day they moved in) have been inviting their friends and patrons to utilize the private access to the beach for our neighborhood. This started with just a few groups of party people, and now there are dozens of non-residents driving to Longboat Key, parking either at Solarzanos or on our street, and setting up parties on the beach. No social distancing, no masks, no regard for anyone else. On Labor Day weekend, they have hired a bus to bring in dozens of non-residents to use the private access. These guests have left bags and bags of garbage, pizza boxes, beer cans and bottles, etc. These folks are taking up most of the beach, leaving no space for residents. They have invited their friends to come by boat with dogs, and did not clean up after the dogs. They have left dirty baby diapers on the sand. We have watched this for over a year now. I have reached out to Chris Kopp in Code Enforcement, and he is aware of the problem. I believe Chris physically cleaned up after the Labor Day beach party at our private access. There are no garbage or recycling cans on the beach, so guests leave their trash each time. Nobody is cleaning up after these non-residents trash our beach.

My next concern is based on the same issue. There will soon be a new business moving into the same plaza. They rent beach furniture, umbrellas, scooters and mini golf cart/go carts. From what we hear, they plan on advertising that if you rent a chair and umbrella from them, you would be welcome to use them on the beach, thru the private neighborhood access. The scooters and go carts will pose their own problem if someone tries driving on Gulf of Mexico Drive, and pulls out in front of a truck going 45-50 mph. That will pose quite an issue for the police as well as the safety of the neighbors, walkers, bikers, drivers and go cart drivers. They have these on AMI, but the speed limits are much lower.

Are these businesses allowed to invite their guests to utilize our private neighborhood beach access? Does the landlord of that plaza have the right to allow his renters to “give away” our private access for anyone that purchases a $5 slice of pizza or rents a $10 umbrella? Some of these guests are quite sketchy and often make me feel very unsafe. We have been verbally attacked after asking one of the pizza guests to move their car from our front yard. We have watched these non-resident visitors park on our street and walk to the beach since the public access closures. Longboat Key does not feel like a safe place with these elements. If this were going on at the street where you reside, what would you do?

Are these businesses allowed to offer our private beach access to their customers? If not, what can be done to stop this?

Please contact me to discuss, as this is becoming very upsetting for not just myself, but all of my neighbors that I have spoken to.

Jessica Stevens

Longboat Key

 

LBK Resident Neighborhood concerns

To: Longboat Key Town Manager Tom Harmer

Following up: We had a productive conversation with the owner of Paradise Plaza, Shawn Hamilton.  According to Mr. Hamilton, the beach access easement (copy he provided attached) does provide unrestricted beach access to the commercial properties, along with the residential properties.

As a very positive outcome, Mr. Hamilton committed to providing secured trash receptacles on the easement, which he and his commercial tenants will maintain.  He indicated the trash receptacles would be installed within 1 month.  Chris has reach out to Ms. Stevens to let her know these findings and likely improvement in the trash portion of her complaint.

Allen Parsons

Planning and Zoning Director

Town of Longboat Key

 

Code enforcement checking for compliance

To: Longboat Key Commissioner BJ Bishop

Commissioner Bishop, thanks for the email. I passed along your note to PZB. The property is in the code enforcement process and the staff advised that they would be checking back yesterday afternoon to see if it was in compliance.

Tom Harmer

Town Manager

Longboat Key

 

Bald Eagle nest

To: Longboat Key Commission

We received a question earlier this week regarding active construction projects near an eagle nest in the Buttonwood/Triton Bend area.  See information and attached below regarding the restrictions.  Bald Eagle nesting season begins on October 1st and runs through May 15th.  The restrictions depend on the type and size of project and are outlined below.  The staff will notify any contractors of their responsibly if they are within that zone.

Thomas A. Harmer

Town Manager

Town of Longboat Key

 

Eagle Nesting Requirements & BS&A Flag

To: Longboat Key Town Manager Tom Harmer

We have an active Bald Eagle Nest a little north of us (between Triton Bend & Buttonwood Dr.). Big thanks to Chris for putting together the info below & the map depicting active pending or active construction projects (attached) within the regulated nest radius.  And then an additional gigantic thanks to Chris for going into BS&A and flagging all of the properties within the radius areas described below for us to be aware of potential additional steps that may be needed when we receive certain building permits.

Below are some key points:

Longboat Key has an active nest between Buttonwood Dr and Triton Bend (Nest #SA033).

After a few discussions with FWS (Federal Agency responsible for enforcement) and FWC (state agency, no longer responsible for enforcement), construction does not have to immediately stop.

Bald Eagle Nesting Season begin on October 1 and runs through May 15.

There are two levels of protection for a bald eagle nest:

Property within 330 feet of a nest

• New construction of a 1-story residence and/or project of less than ½ acre is allowed, FWS Permit may be required.

• New construction of a 2- or more story residence or project of ½ acre or more, requires an FWS Permit.

• Alterations and additions are allowed, FWS Permit may be required.

• All construction should have a designated bald eagle monitor. There is a training manual and monitor log to ensure there is no disturbance of the nest.

• Construction should use the “Quick and Quiet” approach. No construction equipment beeping or yelling on the job site.

Property within 660 feet of a nest

• All construction should have a designated bald eagle monitor. Attached is a training manual and monitor log for contractors.

• Restrict any land clearing or tree removal.

Contractors are responsible for designating a monitor and completing the monitor logs.  Approximately 70 properties within the 330- and 660-foot of the SA033 nest have been flagged in BS&A as “Eagle Watch.”  The flag does not restrict any permits and inspections.  This is just to notify staff to remind constructors of the importance of following the guidelines set forth by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Allen Parsons

Director Planning, Zoning & Building Department

Town of Longboat Key

 

Lightning Suppression Device

To: Longboat Key Mayor Ken Schneier

We’ve not met. I just now saw this 9/19/20 article and wanted to share some info with you that will provide a lightning solution for your HOAs. I represent EMP Defense LLC, the exclusive distribution partner for the CMCE 120 Lightning Suppression Device — the most advanced lightning protection device on the market. CMCE Lightning Suppression Devices are not conventional lightning rods, but rather lightning suppression/elimination devices. We have many installations throughout Florida…for example, this story this week “New technology installed on Manatee beaches helps keep people safe from lightning strikes.” https://www.wtsp.com/article/news/local/manateecounty/lightning-device

If you’d like to learn more, please reach out to me.

Jeff Miller

EMP Defense

 

Lightning Suppression Device

To: Longboat Key Planning and Zoning Director Allen Parsons

This is someone you may hear from in the future.

Ken Schneier

Mayor

Longboat Key

 

City Manager Should be fired

To: Sarasota City Commission

The City Manager should be fired. This is just one of a number of recent blunders. When will Sarasota wake up to the fact that a strong mayor form of government is essential? Enough said!

R. Lyons

Sarasota

 

Sarasota Police investigation

To: Sarasota City Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

Yesterday afternoon the SPD investigated a shooting in North Sarasota that led to the death of a young man by another young man.  The incident involved three different locations with several family-involved physical altercations taking place at the same time. The SPD personnel, in a very difficult and volatile atmosphere, conducted themselves in an exemplary manner in spite of it all.  I was very proud of each of them and of them collectively.  This situation could have gone sour at any given time.  I know they are trained for difficult situations, but this tested everything they learned in the academy plus their experience and they handled it extremely well.  As we spoke earlier, so often we hear about the “bad things” with regard to the Police but not enough of the good things they do more often.  I wanted you to know from one who observed it firsthand.

Carolyn Mason

Sarasota

 

Sarasota Police investigation

To: Carolyn Mason

Thank you so much for your call today and your compliments to the SPD, and thank you for the follow-up email. I appreciate you taking the time to reach out to me with this so that I can share this with the Charter Officials, Police Chief, Deputy City Manager, and staff. I am sure they will share this with their staff as well. Once again, I do appreciate you sharing your compliments about our police department officers.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Flags at half-mast

To: Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin

If you haven’t already directed it, I would like to request lowering our flags to half-mast in observance of Justice Ginsburg’s passing.

Hagen Brody

Commissioner

City of Sarasota

 

Short-term rentals

To: Sarasota City Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

I am President of the Lido Shores Property Owners Association (LSPOA,) a community of some 120 homes at the north end of Lido Key. We have been closely following Sarasota’s short-term house rental issues for the past two years and are strong supporters of the current minimum stay requirement. Thirty Lido Shores neighbors attended the City Commission’s November 2018 meeting when the issue was last debated, and where one neighbor spoke eloquently about the continuous disruption from the now-famous “Party House” at 1406 Westway Drive.

We understand that the short-term rental issue will again be discussed at this Monday’s Commission meeting. Please know that Lido Shores and its approximately 220 residents are vehemently opposed to any change in City regulations that would lessen the minimum stay from the current seven days. We live in a very special place. None of us wants to be next to a transient facility filled with renters who drop in for a few days and show no consideration for the homeowners around them.

Lido Shores Property Owners Association also supports a thoughtful review of building permit applications for new or modified structures with an excessive number of bedrooms for a given living space. A prime example of high-density housing was 1406 Westway Drive—advertising sleeping accommodations for 17 in what was a modest, single-family home. When the house was rented, our streets were often blocked with illegally parked vehicles and the backyard celebrations went on well into the early morning hours. Its presence in our family neighborhood was disruptive to the point where some considered moving.

The homeowners of Lido Shores have an abiding interest in the way the City is managed…and we vote. LSPOA asks for your 100% support in continuing the seven-night minimum rental requirement and a common-sense approach to permitting residential home construction so that Lido Key doesn’t end up like Anna Maria Island. Thank you in advance for considering our position.

Denis Bischoff

President, Lido Shores Property Owners Association

 

Short-term rentals

To: Denis Bischoff

Thank you for your email concerning Hotel Houses, I do appreciate your input.

Just to be clear, the discussion on Monday is not concerning changing the short-term rental regulations, it is a discussion of Hotel Houses only. Please see the note from the City Attorney I pasted in below, who was forwarded your email as well.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Short-term rentals

To: Sarasota City Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

I hope that they realize no one is talking about changing the 7-day minimum stay requirement.

Robert M. Fournier

City Attorney

City of Sarasota

 

Zoning code information

To: Sarasota Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown

Per our meeting at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, September 18, 2020, I was checking back to see if the zoning code information was sent. Perhaps I missed it in my email inbox.

Specifically, I requested the Zoning Code Public Art Definition II-201 and VII-701 be provided as part of the record and as back-up materials for the Agenda Item III.1. Since these two items are referenced in our materials, it is important to know what they contain. Let me know if this information has been provided.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Zoning code information

To: Sarasota City Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

I missed that one in briefing and looking at my notes I wrote it down. It will be sent today. Thanks for the reminder.

Marlon Brown

Deputy City Manager

City of Sarasota

 

Demonstrations

To: Sarasota City Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

Saw a large group of Trump supporters at the “Unconditional Surrender” Statue and along US Route 41. I was followed in a SPD vehicle and I noticed that when the police officer approached the section of road where the demonstrators were jumping up and down and demonstrating the officer turned on his emergency lights or whatever lights are turned on when the officer is pursuing a call. But then the lights were turned off and there was no pursuit of a call. I can only interpret this as the police officer in that vehicle was giving an endorsement to the demonstrators in a public vehicle on public time.  Could you consult with the City Attorney on the issue of harassment which I mentioned before. Can we expect harassment at the polls as is being experienced in Virginia without restraint or legal repercussions?

Larry Grossman

Sarasota

 

Demonstrations

To: Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin, Sarasota City Attorney Robert Fournier

Please see the emails from Larry Grossman and respond accordingly.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Demonstrations

To: Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin

Please do not respond to this email until after I have had the opportunity to speak with the Mayor.  Thank you.

Robert M. Fournier

City Attorney

City of Sarasota

 

Rallies

To: Michael Ramah

It is my understanding that the Trump Rally gatherings, adjacent to US 41 near the Unconditional Surrender statue, are protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. We have received a couple calls about this and will again look to the City Attorney Robert Fournier for guidance or any appropriate, allowable modifications to our codes if deemed legal/necessary/appropriate.

Although we hear your point, many, many others have also regularly gathered over recent years, in the area on a variety of issues. Other candidates for office are entitled to the same rights. Thank you for inquiring and taking a few moments to share your observations.   

Tom Barwin

City Manager

City of Sarasota

 

Rallies

To: Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin

Thank you, sir, for the prompt response. I appreciate your perspective and hasten to point out that my objection is not the topic but the regulatory of it, the noise it generates and the potential for traffic issues. It has been going on since early morning today.  Non-stop. Horns honking all day long. Yesterday was the same. Don’t we have noise ordinances, especially on Sundays?

Thank you, I know how busy you are and I do appreciate the considered feedback. Keep up the great work, especially on the COVID-19 front.

Michael Ramah

Sarasota

 

Cameras needed in city

To: Sarasota City Commissioner Liz Alpert

The police had a great drug bust that cleaned things up for a few days. But park going back to homeless and drugs already. We have seen at least one drug runner. You can see the spice smoking. Just watching you know there is drug use. Ms. Albert the city needs to help.

Talk about cameras but have heard nothing. You continue to keep the tables which are an attraction only to the homeless drug users. No normal person will walk thru park or use tables or benches when they are there. You really need to store them. Need sign prohibiting bikes

and motorcycles from park. Prohibit laying or sitting on pavement in park.

Unless the city takes some real action- we have seen none except from the police-the cycle just keeps repeating itself.

Is there any effort being made by the city to help curtail this situation? Maybe this total lack of action by the city needs to be more publicly aired. At least the police are trying but they could use some help. Wish we could station an officer in the park for a period of time.

Don Costantino

Sarasota

 

Cameras needed in city

To: Don Costantino

I did talk to Chief DiPino about the cameras. She said they would be prohibitively expensive. But, that your pictures are helpful and if you are able to video the activity when you see it, it can be provided to SPD.

Liz Alpert, Esq.

City Commissioner

City of Sarasota

 

Rallies/Noise – US 41 at Unconditional Surrender

To: Sarasota City Commission

Just wanted to give you a heads up that we have been receiving some complaints about noise (use of a megaphone and vehicles honking) at the current political rallies at Unconditional Surrender/US 41/Gulf Stream. One involves an elderly 102-year-old individual living at Bay Plaza who cannot rest with the noise. If you receive any inquiries please know that staff is looking into this issue that includes reaching out to the organizers to request not using the megaphone, etc.

Marlon Brown

Deputy City Manager

City of Sarasota

 

Rallies/Noise – US 41 at Unconditional Surrender

To: Sarasota Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown

At the outset, it is important to note that a park as well as a right of way is a traditional public forum for First Amendment purposes.  By that I mean that anyone who wants to make use of a traditional public forum for political speech protected by the First Amendment has the right to do so, (especially during a Presidential election campaign).  I say this because I have read at least one comment that the conduct of Trump rallies on City property is tantamount to the City’s endorsement of the President’s candidacy.  It is not.  A traditional public forum is a place that is open to all for First Amendment protected speech (provided no laws are violated).

More problematic though is the issue of whether honking one’s horn is protected speech or expressive conduct under the First Amendment.  I have not researched the issue extensively, but a brief initial review indicates that the case law on the subject is widely diverging, so this issue is going to take more time to get into before we can reach a conclusion.

Robert M. Fournier

City Attorney

City of Sarasota

 

1400 block of 9th St. (Cherry’s Bar)

To: Sarasota Police Captain Demetri Konstantopoulos

Sgt. Delcos and I met with Ms. Behns today regarding individuals using the abandoned property next to her residence as a bathroom since the port -a-let was removed. After some discussion the problem was ongoing before the toilets were placed on the corner of 9th an Cohen Way but did decrease while they were present. We also discussed the efforts of the City and PD to discourage the storage of property around the facility and efforts being made to minimize lodging out of doors and other illegal activities. I am sure she will appreciate any assistance your officers can provide.

Joseph K. Stiff

Coordinator of Homelessness Response

City of Sarasota

 

1400 block of 9th St. (Cherry’s Bar)

To: Sarasota Police Captain Demetri Konstantopoulos

I spoke to Brenda Behns today regarding an issue that is occurring on the property east of her residence. The building is the old Cherry’s Bar, I could not find a street number on it but TEP signs are posted. Mrs. Behns advises people are using back of the building as a restroom during the night. Could the zone officers check the area for trespassers while doing their routine patrol?

I did advise her of the efforts by the City and PD to discourage loitering in the area and lodging out of doors at night but she does not believe at this point it has made a difference in this issue.

Joseph K. Stiff

Coordinator of Homelessness Response

City of Sarasota

 

1400 block of 9th St. (Cherry’s Bar)

To: Sarasota City Deputy Manager Marlon Brown

Good evening and thank you for this information thank you for speaking to Ms. Bhens hopefully we can come to some resolve.

Willie Charles Shaw

Commissioner

City of Sarasota

 

Mental Health Services proposal

To: Sarasota City Commission

Attached is an update on the collaborative effort underway to bring mental health services to the streets and community in a more pro-active manner. While only a pilot project at this point it could prove to be a major innovation toward creating exceptional crisis intervention services above and beyond all prior efforts. Gwen has done an amazing job which SPD and I have helped along.

Tom Barwin

City Manager

City of Sarasota

 

Mental Health Services proposal

To: First Step CEO Gwen McKenzie

The proposal looks very promising dependent of course on securing adequate funding, organization and staffing. Thank you for having the energy and vision to play the key role in attempting to launch such an innovative and long overdue initiative like this. Keep me posted, especially on any ways I can help. Keeping my fingers crossed for favorable reviews and support for the pilot program.

Tom Barwin

City Manager

City of Sarasota

 

Unconditional Surrender copyright violation

To: Sarasota City Commission

You may know me as Kelly Franklin’s husband; she served as a Publisher at John Wiley & Sons for fifteen years. I began my professional career as a Certified Public Accountant specializing in publishing and have done extensive audits at a number of major publishers in New York City.  In that capacity, I had extensive experience over concerns regarding copyrights and intangible assets.  As you may know, The Meredith Corporation purchased Time Inc. in January 2018 for $2.8 billion. Among Time Inc.’s assets were the rights to the titles held in the Time/Life photographic library, which includes Alfred Eisenstaedt’s iconic image VJ Day in Times Square.

In both 2009 and as recently as July 8, 2020, your Public Art Committee voted unanimously against including the sculpture in the City’s public art collection because it did not meet Sarasota’s criteria for public art.  One of the primary issues mentioned both times was the sculpture’s lack of originality.

What is hidden behind the phrase “not an original work” isn’t just that the sculpture is a manufactured commercial product ordered from the internet and made in China, or the fact that there are now more than half a dozen editions of this work scattered around the globe (although the one temporarily exhibited in Sarasota by a third party non-profit in 2005 was the first), but also the fact that this sculpture then, as now, constitutes a willful copyright violation, which the City is party to and which Seward Johnson insisted upon, because flaunting intellectual property rights and exploiting the creative expressions of others was part of what he claimed to be his work product (see May 9, 2007 Sarasota Herald Tribune article “Sculptor at center of copyright infringement case”).

Indeed, one of his other sculptures is entitled “Copyright Violation,” and Johnson’s attorney explicitly forbade the City of Sarasota from independently licensing the rights which would permit it to display the sculpture as a derivative work based on Alfred Eisenstaedt’s iconic photo VJ Day in Times Square because Johnson feared it would harm his ability to derive revenues from other unlicensed versions of this sculpture.  In intellectual property law, the reproduction of unlicensed derivatives for commercial sale can be considered not just copyright infringement, but piracy.  Based upon the public record, the City Attorney was aware of this risk:

 

“Unconditional Surrender from June 22, 2009

To: Sarasota City Commission

No, to date, I have not received anything concerning the resolution of the copyright infringement dispute.

Robert M. Fournier

City Attorney

City of Sarasota”

 

“LIFE Executive re-states copyright matter remains unresolved

To: Sarasota City Commission

The matter with Seward Johnson is still not resolved and our position remains the same.

If you are seriously considering the black granite concept I would be happy to license permissions for such a use. Let me know if you interested and I’ll quote a license fee.

Jeff Burak

Director, Business Development LIFE”

 

“LIFE Executive re-states copyright matter remains unresolved

To: Sarasota City Commission

The matter with Seward Johnson remains unresolved. As you are aware, Time Inc. is the copyright holder of the Eisenstaedt Kiss Photograph. The Statue is a derivative work and therefore our permission is required for any reproduction or use of the copyright. I am unable to provide you with any indication as to our future actions. Is your Board still considering acquiring the Statue?

Jeff Burak

Director, Business Development LIFE”

 

Time to return Unconditional Surreneder for numerous reasons

To avoid the $5,000 licensing fee, Johnson made the laughably unsupportable claim that his sculpture was derived from a public domain photograph of the same pair in Times Square taken by Navy photographer Victor Jorgensen. This tall tale has no legs – literally, since the Jorgensen photo is cut off at the knees, and the distinctive angle of the female figure’s off-balance foot, while included in this sculpture, are not depicted in Jorgensen’s work.

The implausibility of Johnson’s assertion, and legal and financial risk it created for those who knowingly display a work that violates copyright, was acknowledged at the September 8, 2009 City Commission meeting where the bare majority agreed to accept the donation of the sculpture provided the legal issues surrounding copyright could be resolved.

The City did not create detailed transcripts of Commission meetings at that time, but if you access the video at http://sarasota.granicus.com/player/clip/2726?view_id=84&redirect=true and fast forward to time marker 5:37:55, you will note the following exchange:

“Mayor Clapp:  “Do we have any risk under the copyright questions either now or in the future”

City Attorney Fournier: “Yes, I think that it is highly probable that if a copyright infringement suit were filed, that a court would find that there has been a copyright infringement.  I think it meets the test of a derivative work, and under the copyright laws, the holder of the copyright has the sole and exclusive authority to prepare a derivative or to authorize others to prepare a derivative, so that is why I think the indemnity in that regard is very important”.”

Mr. Fournier goes on to discuss the potential liability of the City if it chooses to knowingly display an unlicensed derivative work.  He estimates that the maximum civil damages the City could be forced to pay would be $150,000, and mentions that the portion of the purchase price then held in escrow by the private foundation purchasing the piece on behalf of Jack Curran as one possible financial backstop for the City’s potential liability, but notes that because the City has the “deep pockets,” its risk would not be eliminated by these financial guarantees.  He also mentions a three-year time period from the time a copyright holder becomes aware of, or should become aware of, a copyright infringement as the statute of limitations.

Significant court rulings subsequent to this 2009 discussion (Psihoyos v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 748 F.3d 120, 124  (2d Cir. 2014) (quoting 17 U.S.C. § 507(b) and Sohm v. Scholastic Inc., No. 18-2110, 2020 WL 2375056 (2d. Cir. May 12, 2020) suggest that there is no time limit for a copyright holder to file a claim of infringement as long as the work they hold copyright to is still under copyright protection, but that the civil damages from any infringement would be restricted to proceeds accrued from the illegal distribution or display only in the three years prior to the time the infringement claim was filed.  I do not know whether other editions of this sculpture have been sold within the last three years, but the bill of sale presented to the City Commission this June suggests that at least one transfer of tangible value (aka sale) has occurred, which suggests the City could be found responsible for damages in the amount of at least the $500,000 Mr. Curran paid for the sculpture, and possibly even $2 million based upon the replacement and liability insurance the contract required be carried on the sculpture.

In short, based on my professional experience with risk assessment and valuing publishing assets, I believe that the City of Sarasota is at substantial risk financially and legally for its participation in Seward Johnson’s scheme to skirt copyright, and its exposure is now heightened by the fact that the City of Sarasota is the legal owner of this sculpture as of June 11, 2020.

Indeed, because the loan and donation agreement requires the City to promulgate a copyright it knows to be false (claiming copyright of the sculpture resides with Seward Johnson and The Sculpture Foundation) based on a fiction (that the sculpture was derived from a public domain photograph), it could be argued that all of the photographs tourists have taken over the last decade of themselves with this sculpture and published on social media are themselves new instances of copyright infringement, starting the three year clock over with each new occurrence.

It could also be argued that the City’s knowing participation in this scheme has undermined the value of the original copyright protected photograph, V-J Day in Times Square, in that the #MeToo tagging of the sculpture made a broader public aware of the nature of the incident which was photographed, which may eventually harm the licensing income from that photograph as romantic imagery.  In short, while I am not a lawyer, I would much rather be the attorney for the Meredith Corporation than represent the City of Sarasota on this matter should it be litigated.

As a public accountant, I am surprised that a municipality ever accepted such a liability that this donation, given the clear intellectual property issues, generates. As a taxpayer, I object to the continued financial risk of knowingly displaying a copyright infringing work.  As a citizen, I hope that you will find the courage to do the right thing when this sculpture is discussed on October 5, and return it, and its ethical and moral challenges and substantial financial and legal risks, to The Sculpture Foundation.

Ron Kashden

Sarasota

 

RLT Test Site

To: Sarasota City Commission

Good morning. Two hundred twenty-two people were tested yesterday bringing the grand total to 26,994. Have a great day.

Richard “Todd” Kerkering

Emergency Manager

Sarasota Police Department

 

RLT Test Site

To: Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin

Thank you for these daily reports, I really appreciate it! Do you know what the turn-around time is averaging to get the results?

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

RLT Test Site

To: Sarasota City Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

You’re welcome. No idea on the turn-around time. From what I have heard from some people it is a couple of days. I know a group of four who went, and each one was different in the amount of time. Also depends on the number of tests they are doing each day. The more test, longer the turn-around time.

Richard “Todd” Kerkering

Emergency Manager

Sarasota Police Department

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