A blog dealing with Sarasota County and the City of Sarasota.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Man Bites DOG!

The Pelican Press just came out with its 2007 year in review. I was surprised to see how many of the noteworthy stories I had been involved in in some way. 

January 25: National Veterans Cemetery. I don't know what role the Myakka River Management Coordinating Council played in the siting of the cemetery, but we made it clear we would have high standards for any portion of the site draining into the Myakka. The final boundary does not include portions of the Myakka watershed. Goals: Protect the Myakka. Avoid problems for VA.

February 15: Land Clearing Issues. I ended up serving on a working group that reported back to the County Commission in December. More to come. Goals: Reduce habitat lost when developers choose alternatives that allow habitat destruction rather than meeting existing restrictive requirements.

March 1: The County moves forward to buy lots adjacent to Beach Access #7 on Siesta Key. I voted against this at the PARC meeting, arguing that there already was an access there, that virtually all of the dunes were otherwise protected and that the neighborhood parkland dollars were not intended for parking lots. Goals: Save limited Neighborhood Parkland money for truly special places. 

July 5: City Cultural District Master Plan. I contacted staff and some elected officials arguing that the proposed new approach to Van Wezel from due east would be prohibitively expensive, be difficult to permit and partially destroy some of the last remaining natural shoreline in the city. Goals: Save taxpayer money and the environment.

March 22: Gulf Beach Campground. The question about the continuation of camping came before PARC in December. I argued (successfuly) that we take a position on this,  something the Chair had argued against. Then we unanimously voted to support the continuation of camping, with conditions that there be buffering and supervision. Goals: keep income stream and unique historic use - part of what made Sarasota unique.

April 5: Road funds. I have testified several times against a proposed new bridge in Manatee County -- the Fort Hamer Bridge. There is no bridge now, and I contend no real need for one. Manatee County has decided to go it alone on funding, we'll see what happens. Goals: Save taxpayer dollars for other road projects, protect the environment.

May 17: New Voting Machines: I was recruited by the County Commission to serve on the committee to recommend a new system. After several meetings I was elected chair. You can watch proceedings of the committee online. Goals: restore faith in voting systems. 

July 12: Bird Colony Islands in Roberts Bay: I went to an early meeting of a group working on this project. I remain concerned that unanticipated effects of the stabilization efforts may result in the loss of the roosting and nesting areas anyway. Goals: Question accepted wisdom -- is this project really worth it?

July 19: Rosemary Community Garden: I worked hard to save the garden, which had been targeted as a site for affordable housing. We argued the garden was doing more for the community and lost, although there are plans to construct a new garden elsewhere. It is hard to respect the people who submitted the application describing the site as vacant, when something like 40 individuals had been gardening there, some for more than a decade. Goals: Stand up for a neighborhood and challenge the assumption that affordable housing is ALWAYS the best use for a site.

August 23: Midnight Pass: I don't recall doing anything about Midnight Pass in the past year. I loved it when it was open, fought to keep it open, and drafted the report calling for a major opening, but after nearly a quarter  century it is time to accept reality. The current plan will cost $10 million to start with and a million each year thereafter -- let's save that money or spend it on more important coastal goals. Goals: Save taxpayer money, protect natural ecosystem.

October 11: Drought conditions: I've been attending some of the meeting of the Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply authority asking them to consider paying big water users to permanently reduce their usage. I believe this will be cheaper than developing new sources, which people tell me costs about $10 million to develop a supply capable of producing 1 million gallons a day. Goals: find cheaper sources of water, protect the environment.

November 15: Supermajority: While I took no position on the measure itself, I did write a letter to the editor objecting to people who characterized the measure as somehow unAmerican or unconstitutional. Goal: Object to people making bogus arguments.

December 20: Democrat to run for County Commission! While announcements from Repubican incumbents Thaxton, Staub and Mercier failed to make the Year in Review, the idea that a Democrat might run was considered a major news story of 2007. Man bites dog indeed. 

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