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

Friday, March 28, 2008

Reflections on the Legacy Trail Opening

Today (March 28th) was truly historic day as the long awaited Legacy Trail opened. Former Commissioner David Mills was on hand and this must have been a gratifying conclusion to a long-held dream for him. 

I actually have been mentioning David when I speak, using him to exemplify a Commissioner who had a mission and vision that transcended simply taking care of County business. David has been stereotyped as the "business guy" just as some of us are stereotyped as "environmental guys", but like everyone he was multi-dimensional and thoroughly committed to recreational trails, particularly this one. 

Of course, thousands contributed to the existence of the trail from taxpayers and voters (not always the same thing) to Commissioners, county staff and exceptional volunteers like Rollins Coakley. 

I managed to make the ribbon cuttings at both ends of the trail, so I got to hear Commissioner Jon Thaxton twice. The first talk was punchy and assertive, but after traversing the entire trail he was more reflective and by the time he was done talking the trail seemed like a transect not only of his life, but even of Sarasota County. 

Who expected unsolved murders, school breaks in storm sewers and a graphic vignette of Sarasota's county's racist past at a trail dedication? Jon spent more than the alloted three minutes, but delivered  personal testimony that even attributed our enlarged Oscar Scherer State Park to the railroad right of way. 

It was a moving speech and it made me wonder how many of the Venice Elementary School Chorus members would be roughly my age fifty years hence, standing on the platform reminiscing how they had been present the day the trail first opened?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

From "book club without a book" to "cabal unmasked"!

Rick Barry rips the lid off the soft underbelly of a mysterious organization unafraid of mixed metaphors!

Taking investigative journalism  to a new plateau, Pelican Press writer Rick Barry uncovered, documented and brazenly reported on a little known organization that has existed in our midst for four or five years. Code-named (well, actually just named) ENZYME, Rick was no doubt hoping for some dastardly entity comparable to SMERSH or SPECTRE, some underground organization plotting some nefarious action that will bring Sarasota to its knees; like installing roundabouts on I-75, opening a new pass along the Manatee-Sarasota County line on Longboat Key or draining the Myakka to create a mid-county recreational trail. 

What he found can barely be considered an organization. There are no dues, no bylaws, no minutes, no actions, no initiatives. As one member put it: " We don't really do anything." This puts the ENZYME 'cabal' on a level with any other group that gets together informally. I told him it was like a book club without a book. 

Here's what Rick quoted me as saying about the group: 

Miller more or less confirmed these assessments: "It's just a group of people who care deeply about the area. Each month, Debra will give us a homework assignment, and each group of two or three will look into a subject and make a presentation to educate the others.

"We talked about how Englewood and Longboat Key are split between two counties, and how that affects those towns; how North Port's physical layout affects its development, that sort of thing.

"It's named 'Enzyme' because they are natural catalysts. And we hope by getting together and learning ... and getting to know one another, we might have a positive effect on the community. But it's all very relaxed, informal ... and not really very secret at all."

Click on the highlighted text to read Rick's article.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Losing 4-1

Today's Sarasota Herald Tribune  (March 25, 2008)  took some editorial space  (see accompanying scan on the left) to comment on Commissioner Mercier's forceful opposition to the USB consensus alternative his fellow commissioners embraced. 

To be fair, Mercier is not alone in questioning the process that brought the community to this point -- at least one citizen and one Pelican Press editorial writer agree with him, apparently mostly on procedural grounds.

Opinion seems to be divided regarding his motive: was this a shrewd play to align himself with voters who may already feel disenfranchised, or a principled stand based on deep convictions? 

I try to avoid cynicism and conspiracy theories and I'm prone to taking people at their word until they convince me that's unwise. Hence, I'm inclined to believe Paul's position is heartfelt, sincere, and based on deep convictions. He could no doubt see how the vote was going down and had the opportunity to go along to get along, but he made a conspicuous choice that further distanced himself from both the rest of the commission and a broad spectrum of the community. 

There's no shame in a principled stand. While I agree with the editorial's conclusion that his comments were unreasonably dismissive, it's important to note that being on the losing end of a 4-1 vote doesn't mean the minority position is wrong, it just means the losing party was unable to mount a convincing argument. 

This matter is not fully settled and reflection may yet lend credence to some of Paul's concerns. All we know today is that one commissioner, for whatever the reason, went out of his way to thwart a unanimous endorsement of a unique settlement distinguished not as some would argue by who was excluded, but rather by the breadth of those that were included.