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

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Now We're Talkin'! Beyond the USB fight.

The above-the-fold headline in today's Sarasota Herald-Tribune announces a proposed settlement that could lead to replacing the impending vote on making Urban Service Boundary (USB) changes subject to voter approval. The centerpiece of proposed alternative would require a unanimous county commission vote for an USB change. 

Although I can quibble with some the facts as presented in the paper, this is big stuff and the people who negotiated it deserve a lot of credit for coming to the table to explore (and hammer out!) a workable alternative. And County Administrator Ley deserves credit for providing county support for the effort. He has a pretty good eye for seeing train wrecks ahead and encouraging engineers to apply brakes and look for other track. Commissioner Staub's involvement no doubt added impetus and a needed reality factor to the proceedings.

Was I involved? Nope. Not directly anyway, and that's probably a good thing. Inserting my presence into the matter would have added an un-needed and unhelpful political spin during this campaign season. 

Was I arguing for just such a solution? Yes. I felt both sides were not acting in the best long and short term interests of the County and I was letting people know about it. 

Near the beginning of the campaign, I had emailed one of the proponents of the voter approved USB changes: "Don't expect me to support a citizen referendum on Urban Service Boundary changes.

And I had a recent meeting with a former head of  the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce in which I bemoaned the approaching confrontation and expenses both sides would incur. I also argued that recent efforts to fight measures such as the supermajority were so over the top that they were actually hurting the business community (when has telling voters THEY were engaged in a "power grab" been a good strategy?)

And while I didn't dream up a unanimous board vote as an alternative, I did suggest to the former Chamber head that a better outcome would be for the two sides to meet, pool their respective warchests for the upcoming media battle and decide to spend the money doing something they both could agree on that would improve the county. 

Some like to focus on the perceived polarization between factions in our community and, to be sure, there are some deep and substantive differences. But this breakthrough is extremely significant, not for the specifics alone, but also for the fact that one side could pick up a phone and call the other to ask if we Sarasotans couldn't do better. 

In these challenging economic times we need to pull together, expending more energy to agree on ways to protect our economy, neighborhoods and environment than on divisive contests that consume our community's energy, creativity, and dollars.

Kudos to all involved. 

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