Monday, October 31, 2005

Portraying the Future

Today’s SHT has a great article about arcades and downtown Sarasota.

Although the reporter (Mike Saewitz) portrays the issue as a community conflict with a cast of opposing characters, Save Our Sarasota is a grass roots organization interested in making Sarasota a really great small city. We realize that there are those in the development community that share the same objective. Maybe what makes us different is that Save Our Sarasota tries to be community inclusive, looking at the common good. Others may lean more toward the "special interest" end of the spectrum. (We know that there are those that would portray us a just another "special interest", none the less, we keep trying).

Developers always show pretty pictures of what their project will look like when it is finished. They always use the "dreamscape" approach. They like to show nice looking people having a wonderful time in a dream like place. Reality however is always quite different.

Consider the Pineapple Square proposal Sarasota is currently considering. Notice how the 10 or 11 story hi-rise portion of the proposal fades into the background, whereas the much lower portion next to the sidewalk is prominently shown with happy people.

Or consider the Plaza at Five Points. The building height is minimized by the chosen view. This is nothing like the looming building that is about to open its doors.

Reality is different than dreamscapes.

While we cannot exactly picture the future buildout of downtown Sarasota, the reality is likely to be much closer to the rendition we have pictured below, than the dreamscapes that developers portray.

Apparently the developers do not like others using the same tools they use when showing a vision for the future. Bruce Franklin is quoted in the article:

[This] "lacks absolute credibility," especially with tricks such as the doctored photo.

Franklin and other developers commonly use fanciful dreamscapes to hide the cold reality of their project. We have shown the cold reality of the potential of allowing arcades over public sidewalks and giving the space above the arcades to developers as an incentive.

We fully understand it is not a pretty picture.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

"Only if portions of Sarasota County are kept natural will future generations get to know and love a place of great character and beauty."

This endorsement comes from today's SHT editorial.

A related editorial makes a good case for arguing that land for affordable housing and saving environmentally sensitive land or urban park land are not mutually exclusive.

The Pelican Press also concurs, saying:

"Just as that beachfront bungalow is no longer within financial reach of the average resident, these sensitive lands are now threatened by increasing encroachment of development and rising land prices. The county needs to act swiftly to purchase and protect as much desirable property as possible before it disappears into new developments."

Save Our Sarasota also urges all county voters to go to the polls on Nov 8 (early voting is currently underway), and vote YES, YES. One Yes vote extends the current tax referendum for 10 years; the second YES vote allows some of the funds to be used for urban park land purchase.

For more information visit the Sarasota County Forever website.

[Picture is from the Sarasota County Forever website]

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Conversations With Ken

Commissioner Ken Shelin hosted a couple forums today - "What are the possibilities for assuring accountability in the City of Sarasota government?"

About 20 people attended the morning session and about 35 in the afternoon.

Keith Fitzgerald, New College Political Professor facilitated the afternoon session - the one I attended.

Attendees were primarily active members of the community that have a high level of commitment to our city.

The starting premise was that there is much discontent within Sarasota about how our city works. The attendees were asked to think about the questions:
  • What is the next step for making things better?
  • What are the problems?
  • What kind of solutions are possible?

A variety of issues and possible solutions were discussed. A common theme was the lack of discussion forums, "Town Hall" type gatherings to discuss vision, issues and solutions in an informal way (less "threatening" than a public hearing on TV).

I posted a more complete summary on Suncoast Blog.

Another session will be held on Sunday, Oct 30 at Sudakoff from 2-4 PM. If you are interested let Ken know.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Notes From Tiger Bay Meeting: Affordable Housing

The Sarasota Tiger Bay Club Topic: "We are being priced out of home ownership and rental housing!"

Moderator: Marge Baldwin

Panel: Jody Hudgins, Banker and County Planning Commissioner
Dr. John McGruder, Jr., S.U.R.E. (Sarasota United for Responsibility and Equity)
Jud Boedecker, Builder/Attorney-Southwest Florida Homes
Mike Jacobson, Executive Director, Habitat for Humanity.

Jud wished there would be a twelve mo. moratorium on new land use regulations. He thinks the reason for not building affordable housing is lack of land. He's seen the imbalance in pricing happen over the last four years. This should be our number one community priority. Tough decisions will have to be made. Compromises on the environment will have to be made.

Mike asked "what does affordable mean?" Without a definition all agree on nothing will get done. With more density, builders could build smaller, lower priced units.

Jody said the City has done a great job. Compare it to downtown Bradenton or downtown Ft. Myers. To get density into the county you have to make sure infrastructure is there, and that growth is compatible with the neighborhood. The cost of land is being driven up.

Jud said density is a bad word in this community but it can prevent sprawl and provide workforce housing.

Jody suggested that density by itself is not the panacea for affordable housing.

Jud thinks the county has the tool box to solve this problem. He is proudly a for-profit builder of single homes. Developers need to be offered mild incentives like rezoning for higher density, give overlay districts for workforce housing and affordable housing. We (the developer) would make sure infrastructure is in place.

John put on the table that there's another important issue besides land (and density) and that's providing living wages to workers.

Questioner reminded all that this community depends on service people. They can't be put out east. Some don't have transportation. Where are the plans for service people?

Jud noted that in Jacksonville, land is given to builders like Habitat for Humanity. The city gives land for $1 (a year?)

Mike is aware of Jacksonville's policies and thinks that there is the political will, the problem is clear to them (unlike here, I presume). We are talking about folks who live in the city making less than $24,000. Workforce housing isn't sexy. The sucking noise you are hearing are the people leaving. Why don't you put together a panel of Habitat owners. Meet the working poor, single moms.

John says that Habitat is no longer the model to follow. Habitat homes can be flipped. We want perpetual affordability. Even in the Housing Trust fund which is great, only 30% of it goes to those making 60% of the median income or less. Most of the money goes to the high end. Keep in mind that Sarasota is way below average for acceptance of diversity. The poor need to live in town.

Marge read from a 2003 City resolution which requested more affordability. It was a plea then. Even more urgent now.

Jody said in 1999, he, Joe Barbetta and another sat on a blue ribbon panel re: affordable housing. The County has dedicated staff and will. The Community Housing Trust of Sarasota County is considering workforce overlay district. It's been in existence for two months and is already a model. Pappas is the chair. Money for the project coming from selling lots in North Port. There's a plan to build 3,000 homes in 10 years.

Marge replied, but, we need them now. That isn't nearly enough. Jody responded that new land requirements require affordable housing must be included.

Marge wanted to know where City TIF money will go. Jud replied that City has been asked to participate.

Mike acknowledged (to John) that Habitat has to make changes. They've built 250,000 homes across the country. Now they are looking for a blending of paradigms. Just building a house for a family and handing them the keys isn't enough.

Marge wanted to know when someone applies, do you screen that person?

Mike said families have to show the ability to pay for their home. We don't see this as a handout but rather a hand up. Habitat has built 150 houses in Sarasota in the past 20 yrs and only a few have changed hands.

John is glad that the city and county are aware finally that affordable housing is missing and that that's a problem. TIF is a real possibility for providing funds. CRAAB is made up of developers. Look where TIF money has gone downtown - to high end projects like Whole Foods and the Herald Tribune. $20 million already spent on development downtown. If Newtown becomes a TIF CRA, please don't spend it in Newtown as it has been spent downtown.

Jody noted that 90% of Sarasota households make less than $80,0000.

Jud challenged - let's create it rather than preserve it. Home ownership gets folks out of lower class with their ability to build equity. A housing trust will take that away from them. Questions: Let's hear from the no growth people. Sounds like affordable housing has to come from the government (not his preference).

Mike jumped in - give 2 to 4 acres, we'd bring in volunteers and show you what's possible. Homes would be put up you'd be proud of to dispel the nimby reaction. Jody says that the county owns most of the land in Sarasota County. Sensitive lands are out - not developable anyway. It's a goal in the comp plan to preserve these lands.

Jud suggested the room is filled with well intentioned people who want to keep the well being of the community intact.

John asked "what can we do?" I'm looking for a few heroes. Let's get a fund together of $1 million dollars for affordable housing to seed the endeavor.

Questioner responded that service people can't live here and businesses needing service people cannot stay. She knows of several businesses that have closed and moved north. People who make $7 to $10 an hr can't afford to live here and Habitat can't cover the thousands in need.

John reminded everyone that we need more rental units and that the landlords need help. (Always we are discussing single home ownership when that doesn't fit for a lot of people, singles, retired, single mothers, etc.

Mike offered that Habitat is branching out into building duplexes, triplexes and rental apartment buildings. This is the next generation. Next questioner urged everyone to contact the legislature and tell them to keep the fund created ten years ago - the Housing Trust Fund which gets money from doc stamp tax. Money is given for rental and mortgage assistance. Help keep the Sadowski Trust Fund.

Another questioner likes the free market. He pays his maid $20 an hour. He says she bought a home in Sarasota County for $200,000. (You do the math.)

Marge used the old saw but if wages go up, then the price of products and services go up. Hasn't killed off popular places, someone quipped.

Jud wanted to know what John considered a living wage. Would it be $15 to $20.

John countered that yes, that would be a start. He also noted that greed is alive and well. Economics will not solve this problem. We have no controls on flipping. Speculators are driving up prices.

Jud acknowledged that a living wage won't buy a person a home here.

Another questioner wanted to know where will Sarasota be in ten years? Still discussing this problem? Everything he has heard so far are only band aid solutions.

Someone mentioned that those of us who have been here a while and own homes have seen our values goes three fold, all fine and good, but what about everyone else!

John thinks funding must come from many sources. It's a moral issue above all else to his mind. It will take the whole community to do something. Action is absolutely missing.

Jody thinks inclusionary funding is the key. He thinks the community housing trust can include rentals.

Jud sees this as a community-wide responsibility.

Mike wants a long term solution, getting all the stakeholders together.

Let's put a stake in the ground and start the momentum urged Mike.

Marge summed up: I think everyone is concerned. Let's start now. There has to be money out there. The City makes millions and contributes not a nickel to affordable housing.

John as a postscript recommended the city and county work with Manatee and Charlotte in a broad way to deal with affordable housing.

Submitted by Jude Levy.

Gardening for Wildlife Tour

Gardening for Wildlife Homescape Tour

November 19, 2005 — 10:00 to 4:00

Eight private yards in Sarasota, Osprey, Venice and Englewood

Added attraction: several public demonstration gardens

Eight Sarasota County gardeners will open their yards on Saturday, November 19 from 10:00 until 4:00 for the first ever Gardening for Wildlife Homescape Tour.

Organizer, Laurel Schiller says the tour will highlight successful homescapes specially designed to attract birds, butterflies and other wildlife.

The tour is a partnership with local environmental groups and will also include demonstration wildlife gardens at county and state parks, The Sarasota Garden Club Butterfly Garden maintained by the Sarasota Butterfly Club, Spanish Point Butterfly Garden, The Florida House Learning Center, local native plant nurseries and more. The event is open to the public; families with children are most welcome. Visitors can start the tour at any of the locations where they’ll be provided a free map of all the participating sites.

Additional information, including "how to" advice and the Real Florida Gardener’s Guide, will be available. A donation of $10 per carload is requested. All proceeds will be divided evenly among the sponsoring not-for-profit organizations—the Audubon Society, Sierra Club, Florida Native Plant Society, ReLeaf Sarasota, Sarasota Butterfly Club, and Lemon Bay Nature Conservancy.

Home gardeners and the sponsors arranged in north to south order are:
  • Bill Lewis, 3221 Tobero Lane, Sarasota—Sierra Club
  • Dan Walton, 2564 Colorado St., Sarasota—Sarasota Butterfly Club
  • Ed Freeman, 723 Goodrich Ave., Sarasota—Florida Native Plant Society
  • Ellen Maloff, 2620 Grafton St., Sarasota—ReLEAF Sarasota
  • Jon Thaxton, 2046 Cordes St., Osprey (Sarasota Audubon)
  • Laurel Schiller, 405 Armada Rd. S., Venice—Florida Native Plant Society
  • Karl Hallsten, 940 Everest Rd., South Venice—Venice Audubon
  • Jack Taylor, 1932 Allen St., Englewood—Lemon Bay Nature ConservancyTicketsAvailable at each site on the day of event.
No advance sales. For additional information call Laurel Schiller At Florida Native Plant Nursery at 941-322-1915 or email her at

(Zebra Longwing and firebush - NSIS)

Monday, October 24, 2005

Paradise Slipping Away?

The division of county government that is responsible for managing growth within Collier County is having problems hiring new employees because the growth that’s occurring is making the price of homes too expensive for them to live here.

As of this past week, the Collier County Community Development and Environmental Services department had 25 vacancies.

"Quite frankly, I’m having a difficult time trying to get people on board," said Joe Schmitt, administrator of community development, when asked about open positions in his department.
Job candidates "come down here, and all of the sudden it’s shell-shock when they look at the
cost of housing," he said.

So goes the story in the Naples News.

Those of us living in Sarasota aren’t the only ones with affordable housing problems.

A related Naples story says:

A growing river of teachers, law enforcement officers, health-care workers and service personnel are quitting their jobs, cashing out on historic home profits and trickling out of Collier County to less-expensive, less traffic-congested turf.

And their exodus is leaving businesses in a bind, officials say.

"We have seen more people in the last 12 months who have relocated out of the area because they could make a nice profit (selling their home)," said Brian Settle, human resources director for NCH Healthcare System. "They are physical therapists, nurses, clerical support and administrative staff."

On top of that, their would-be replacements are increasingly turning down job offers because they cannot afford to buy homes in Collier County.

The labor shortage crosses all industries.

Collier County government has 200 openings. The Collier Sheriff’s Office has 100 openings. Within the next two years, the School District will need 700 new teachers to staff new schools.

The affordable housing shortage today is estimated at 31,000 units, said Cormac Giblin, housing and grants manager for Collier County government.

The Sarasota picture is much the same. Employers cannot find new employees because they cannot afford to live here, current employees are looking at greener pastures.

Maybe we have reached a limit. Working people can’t afford to buy a home, so they won’t move here. Those that have recently bought a house in North Port (or similar "bedroom community") because it was affordable now face $3 gas prices for their long commutes. All of us face increasing threats of hurricanes and red tide.

Maybe this isn’t paradise any more.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Action, Inaction and Reaction

There are three pointed articles referenced in Planetizen.

The first is an editorial in the Palm Beach Post concerning the New Urbanist project to advise on planning for the Gulf Coast rebuilding after Katrina. The editorial gives insight into the current state of West Palm’s satisfaction with their 10 year old downtown master plan developed by Andres Duany:

The governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour, has turned to Miami architect Andres Duany to lead the rebuilding of Gulf Coast communities destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. The mayor of West Palm Beach, Lois Frankel, has turned to Miami architect Bernard Zyscovich to undo the work of Mr. Duany, whose firm wrote the city's downtown plan more than 10 years ago.

Mayor Frankel probably would dispute the line at the beginning of this column accusing her of trying to undo Mr. Duany's successful downtown master plan. There's too much political peril if she is viewed as too closely aligned with developers who want to gut the code.

Mr. Zyscovich and Mayor Frankel are correct when they say that Mr. Duany's plan did not anticipate builders buying and leveling whole blocks under standards aimed at reviving vacant niches.

Mr. Duany argued that the old downtown code had to be ripped up, for which Mr. Zyscovich — in an Oct. 5 session with city commissioners — mocked him. The ripping was really aimed at ending a system that allowed developers to negotiate height and building form. That's what they mean when they say the old plan had no predictability. Mr. Zyscovich confused predictability with monotony. The system had been so flexible that a few big waterfront buildings absorbed downtown's tenants, leaving vacant buildings and lots in the downtown core. Predictability aimed to restore balance but couldn't eliminate bad architecture. Neither approach can claim to do that.

In an article discussing New York, Over-development: Planning, Not Rezoning, Is The Answer, we read:

The real problem with downzoning to stop overdevelopment, or upzoning to encourage development, is that they both avoid any serious planning, both in each neighborhood and in the city as a whole. They don’t allow local residents and businesses to address serious concerns they have with everything from housing needs to traffic, because zoning regulations are limited to use and density controls.

From the LA Times is a story about voter recall of elected officials that continue on a growth path that residents do not appreciate:

Inland Voters Use Recall as a Way to Slow Growth

But the swarms of newcomers, and the traffic and crowding that follow them, have ignited pockets of rebellion.

Recall supporters in Muscoy followed the lead of outraged residents in Murrieta, where voters last spring ousted the pro-growth mayor in the city's first-ever recall. Residents of Palm Springs, Temecula, Redlands and Norco also have skirmished recently with elected officials or developers over growth.

The city's unbridled growth so infuriated a group of activist residents that they recalled Mayor Jack van Haaster in May, and nearly booted Councilman Kelly Seyarto.

"The residents found [they] couldn't relax for a second or somebody stuck in a project on you," said attorney Ed Faunce, a former spokesman for Rescue Murrieta, the recall group that sought to address the problem of snarled roads and safeguard open space.

Sarasota is not the only place with growth issues. Similar issues are apparent throughout the country

Developers pushing the envelope on trying to make the maximum return at the expense of community; zoning that controls density and makes the development process "predictable" at the expense of uniqueness and sense of place; planning that listens primarily to the "wants" of developers with disregard for community input; a downtown master plan that was a good example of community planning was gutted when the plan was translated into zoning code - particularly the Burns Square decision to throw out all the community planning effort that had preceded.

As Sarasota continues to change rapidly, we see more and more frustration from citizens and civic groups, and in media stories and editorials with an inability to act on the basis of community vision. The voices of the citizens are growing louder. They deserve to and must be heard.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Architectural Vision

The recent Sarasota Manatee Business Magazine has an article about "the new architects."

The architects interviewed believe density, affordability and sustainability are as important as aesthetics. It is also noted that this group does not favor more Mediterranean Revival.

Some comments from the article:

Eva Schone (Carl Abbott): favorite commercial building is the new Sarasota Herald-Tribune building on Main. "I hope we’re going to look like a 21st century area and not a duplication of a romanticized past."

Javi Suarez (ADP Group): would like "Sarasota architecture to have a charm of its own, a more contemporary style, something that talks about the here and now, and uses climate in design". Favorite building is the Center for Digestive Diseases on the South Trail.

Cathy Maurer (Bowen Architecture): her vision for Sarasota "That development would slow down. Its going to be a real problem in the future.

Arif Abdulla (TOTeMs): Favorite building is the historic Court House on Main. Vision for Sarasota is that we have plurality. That we not adhere to one style. That we have public involvement and we incorporate green design.

We all know of Sarasota's renown for the "Sarasota School of Architecture". We have all heard the complaints about the over use of Med Rev.

A recent SHT article told the story of Guy Peterson's latest design, the Girl Scouts of the Gulfcoast's new headquarters. This picture is from that article (Rod Millington photo).

Sarasota has a diverse architectural group and many new commercial and residential buildings are showing great distinction. These architects are building on our past and the newest members are continuing the tradition.

Here's a personal favorite on in the downtown scene - the Dale Park's designed bus transfer station. After all the discussion and controversy before construction, now we can see the result of excellent design connected with a unique vision.

We applaud the uniqueness and diverse vision these architects are bringing to our community.

Forum Postponed

The following forum described in our Oct 17 posting, has been postponed due to weather uncertainties.

Saturday, October 22,
1 p.m.Selby Library Auditorium

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Looking Back to See What's Coming Our Way

Sometimes you look back over your shoulder to see what's coming. Are you being overtaken by something or someone?

Jeff LaHurd's recent guest column in the SHT takes a look back. He looks at Sarasota's history and our close relationship with land speculation and real estate booms.

Recently this relationship has intensified and rapid, major changes are overcoming our town. LaHurd likens this to a tidal wave swamping our quality of life.

We couldn't agree more with his perspective and view. The climate has certainly changed. With it have come high rises and high housing prices. Hotels and apartments convert to condos and traffic increases. More concrete, less open space, less public space, less green space, less access to the bay and gulf.

Stories appear in the paper about long time residents getting fed up with the changes; their solution is to sell and move to a smaller town elsewhere. Polls indicate that city commissioners aren't listening.

LaHurd says: Today's boom makes the others in our past look like whitecaps compared to a tidal wave. Not only has the face of a once beautiful community been marred, like a face-lift gone horribly wrong, but also, as Herald-Tribune reporter Doug Sword's article indicates, the quality of our lives here has suffered. As he put it, "Paradise ain't what it used to be."

Residents have clearly identified what the issues are - runaway growth that is compromising our quality of life. City leaders apparently are unable to affect any change. They have heard many voices making the same case. Individual citizens, civic groups, neighborhood associations, business people, newspapers all have the same message - Sarasota is changing too fast and we don't like it.

The question is, what are our leaders doing about this?

LaHurd ends his column with a quote from Mary Freeman's 1957 article in The Nation: "We can still take things in hand ... but the citizens must make a more intelligent and louder noise than the speculator, otherwise, he'll destroy all our unique assets ... in an effort to reproduce Miami."

Apparently this is still true in Sarasota. The citizens are speaking in louder and louder voices. Will our leaders hear? Will they respond? Or are we doomed by the ever growing tidal wave of development and speculators?

Jeff LaHurd says: unfortunately the "intelligent noise" of Sarasota's citizens was drowned out by the roar of a tidal wave.

Future Vision

Here is a photo of Main looking west from the intersection of Orange.

Here's a rendering of the future view from this same spot.

What's different? In the future view we see the effect of our new Downtown Code. We have 10 story buildings with the option of an arcade over the sidewalk that has 3 stories of habitable space above it.

Do you get the feeling you are in a canyon? How much sky is lost? Where are the trees? Does this look pedestrian friendly? Does it approach a "human scale?"

How does this compare to the original vision from our Downtown Master Plan?

Here's that vision as presented by Duany (different view, this is from Main and Palm looking east).

Again, what's different there? First there are no arcades out to the edge of the sidewalk, second there is a step back at the fourth story of the building and third there are trees and awnings. The lack of arcades and the fourth story step back significantly reduces the canyon effect and allows more light. The presence of awnings and trees provides much needed visual diversity - the scene is softened and less harsh. The streetscape is closer to a human scale and presents a much more inviting and friendly feeling.

We think the city planners and decision makers will make a big mistake if they continue to allow the option of including arcades either with or without habitable space above the sidewalk. We need the sidewalk space for air, light and trees. Trees and awnings provide adequate protection from harsh sun and rain when present. During winter months the warmth from the sun is welcomed by pedestrians. Most importantly the human scale of trees and awnings enhance the pedestrian experience.

We urge our city planners and decision makers to remove the arcade option from the downtown code.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

SOS Speaks to Common Cause

Recently Save Our Sarasota spoke to the Sarasota members of Common Cause.

What does Common Cause do? From their website:

Common Cause works with our members and activists and in coalition with other advocacy organizations to make government more accountable to the people. We have been engaged in a wide range of issues for more than thirty years, succeeding in many reforms and today keeping up the fight to make government open and accountable.

Janice Green and Dick Clapp spoke to the group about the history of Save Our Sarasota and the organization's goals.

Current issues were discussed including arcades (see the Oct 13 posting, "Future Vision") and downtown Sarasota:
  • arcades can result in the potential give away of public space above sidewalks, the value of this approaches several million dollars for each side of a block that has arcades
  • arcades magnify the canyon effect that will already be a problem as we get closer to build out with ten story buildings,
  • issues of tree loss in general and additional loss resulting from arcades eliminating space for trees and light required for growth
  • design issues and the need for models to show the impact of all new downtown projects was also covered.
  • potential give away of public space (one block of state Street) in the Pineapple Square development

If you know of an organization that would like to learn more about Save Our Sarasota and the issues that we consider important for Sarasota's future please contact us. We are willing and happy to share our story.

Save Our Sarasota :

JibJab's Latest

Most of you have probably seen the JibJab cartoons, featuring singing and dancing heads along with a dose of political and social satire.

Their latest takes a poke at our Big Box lifestyle.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Public Forum on Red Tide and the Dead Zone


Saturday, October 22, 1 p.m.
Selby Library Auditorium

The community is invited to a free forum on the Gulf’s RED TIDE and DEAD ZONE.

The panel will include:

Frank Muller-Karger, Ph.D., Commissioner, U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and professor of Biological Oceanography at the University of South Florida. He recently spoke at the Gulf Alliance Conference at Mote.

Larry Brand, Ph.D. in Biological Oceanography from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He is currently professor of Marine Biology and Fisheries at the University of Miami. His recent research includes sampling the water quality at Piney Point.

Captain Wayne Genthner has been fishing Sarasota and Manatee waters for 25 years. It is his first-hand observations of the dead zone that shocked the community into realizing the recent and dramatic deterioration of water quality in the Gulf.

Laurel Schiller has degrees in wildlife biology and ecology. She devotes herself to preserving the local natural environment and is co-owner of a native plant nursery. She is also a member of the Sarasota County Planning Board.

Brief presentations will be followed by questions and answers.

Resource handouts will be available. Contact lists to write and call to create action will be provided.

(The Library asks that attendees park on the boundary streets or at the Whole Food public lot.)

Sponsored by the Healthy Gulf Coalition.

For more information, please call Don Chaney at (941) 906-8176 or email:

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Environmentally Sensitive Lands and Neighborhood Parkland

We at Save Our Sarasota urge you to vote in the Special Election to be held on November 8, 2005. This is a county wide election and you can vote as a city or county resident at your usual polling place. Early voting begins on October 24 at either the North or South County Elections Office.

Please vote "YES" and "YES" on the only two items on the ballot. You will be saying "YES" to the County purchasing environmentally sensitive lands and continuing the ad valorem tax until 2029. These votes will be affirming that you want to keep clean water, green space, animal sanctuaries and that you want to increase neighborhood park land.

For more information: Sarasota County Forever

After 5 Urbanity

The scene was pretty lively - a couple hundred people enjoying music under the city lights.

It was Friday night at the Lemon Street plaza. The biggest crowd was clustered by the beer trailer, it was warm you know - the evening, that is, not the beer. And the weekend had finally started!

Mattison's was full. In between the chattering you could hear the ice rattling in the martini shaker, and the clinking of wine glasses. And of course the sweet odors from the food being crafted by the kitchen wizards permeated the air.

Across the street at the Gator Club, things were pretty subdued. Too early for the crowd that patronizes this great establishment. I'm sure when the After 5 Party wound down, many of the revelers would drift over to the Gator Club.

Meanwhile the band at the main event was cranking up and the gals were grooving to the beat.

Moving their feet, hips, shoulders and heads in sync with the tunes. Some of the guys were caught up in the music also, though most were happy just watching the gals.

All in all, it was an urban scene. A mostly younger, 30-ish or so -crowd, but with some middle aged and up hipsters sprinkled in, many watchers and talkers. A scene Sarasota has been promoting and we are seeing some success.

Of course when you meander up and down Main Street, it is still pretty quiet after 5. All the restaurants seemed to be doing a good business as the sidewalk tables all had customers and there were no empty parking spots to be found anywhere on Main. (I drove directly to the City Hall parking lot which was less than half full). But there are still very few stores open, not enough to sustain a lively crowd without a significant attraction like this event.

The phrase "in the hunt" usually conjures up images of the younger set looking for that someone special (unless you live in Wisconsin where the image might include blaze orange). Along Main Street the predominant image is circling cars waiting to pounce on an unexpected open parking space.

So the next time the City sponsors an After 5 event downtown, why not join the scene? Urban living, even on a small scale, can have some delightful moments.

One thing though, please forget about my secret parking spot.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Sarasota Blogs

Take a look at the CoolTown Studios posting on Joe Moraca's blog - posted on 10/15/05. (You can read about the Kiltie Band also.)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

News From Eagle

The story about the candidate chosen for the Eagle County Administrator position.

Local news stories about Mike McNees withdrawing form consideration: Pelican Press, SHT.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Sweet Success? Only Time Will Tell

We recently received a copy of this e-mail:

I am concerned about the recent threat to the Pastry Art Bakery coming from the Isaac Brothers new development, Pineapple Square. The development is not even approved by the City Commission and the developer is already engaged in heavy handed tactics with local merchants. I go to Pastry Art several times a week, including Saturdays during the Downtown Farmer's Market.

It is a wonderful local business with fantastic food, coffee and friendly wait staff. These people will all lose their jobs in order for the City's downtown to get a "Crate and Barrel," "a Banana Republic" and more cookie cutter chain stores. Working at City Hall, I know that redevelopment and continued growth of downtown is important to the City.

But the City Commission must take a stand and decide what parts of downtown should be saved, preserved and enhanced before giving away more sidewalks, airspace, density and park land to developers. The preservation of small retail businesses on Main Street would be an excellent place to start.

I am also aware that the lovely antique business located at 127 S. Pineapple is likely to be bought out by Mr. Isaacs. This is a Florida Master Site File listed structure with some unique Mediterranean style window and roof elements. Another example of how downtown redevelopment without thought of the history of a place can destroy the very things that made many of us come to love Sarasota in the first place.

Please remember to preserve the character of the City while you encourage new development.

Susan Montgomery 2153 Sunnyside Place (District 1 Voter)

The story is covered in this week's Pelican Press. The Isaac's Group, new owners of the building that Pastry Art occupies, apparently decided to increase the rent dramatically. This would have forced the Pastry Art to close. However many loyal customers and residents that value out unique downtown businesses protested on behalf of Pastry Art. Soon the Mayor stepped in and was able to arrange an agreement that so far seems to allow the Pastry Art some breathing room.

We applaud the efforts by those that value our unique small businesses and Mayor Servian for quickly stepping in and finding an apparent solution.

However we also find this situation disturbing in that it provides a peek into the future of downtown. As developers purchase downtown properties, the prices they pay require much higher cash flow compared to the previous owner who had a much lower investment. This is the driving force for redevelopment. And while redevelopment has many good aspects, it will surely put much pressure on the small businesses we have when the rent bill comes around.

The long term future of many of these wonderful small businesses in downtown Sarasota is very much at risk. It will take a lot more than a quick meeting with the Mayor to save our downtown's unique character and businesses.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Florida Speculator Over Extended!

Python Eats Gator said the headline.

Everyone saw this picture recently. It was in all the newspapers and all over the web.

It shows a python eating an alligator, but the python seems to have overextended himself a bit and has burst.

In the process both the python and the alligator died.

In an uncontrolled moment, I titled this picture "Florida Speculator Over Extended!"

Maybe some of our readers have other ideas for the title of this picture?

Please leave a comment.

City Manager To Stay in Sarasota

Mike McNees posted the following on his blog late this afternoon:

Many of you have heard recently that I had been included in a group of three finalists competing for a County Administrator's position in Eagle, Colorado. Early this morning I notified the people in Eagle that I was no longer a candidate for that position.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Exploring on Columbus Day

Sarasota has a very unique facility. G WIZ is recognized nationally as a world class science and technology center.

It is also well known for the unique architecture.

Exploring the world of science and technology can be a wondrous experience. And it is not limited to kids.

An article about science museums tells us:

The role of playing and exploring with objects and ideas as part of the learning process is an important but often overlooked feature of education. The playful atmosphere of science centers leads many people to think of them as places only for children.

But play is a serious matter in science education. It leads to the development of skills in observation and experimentation and the testing of ideas, and it provides an opportunity to independently discover order in nature. Behavioral studies, in addition to indicating the importance of play in developing creativity and learning skills, give support to the idea that the manipulation of objects, as well as sketching and drawing, actually helps the brain think creatively about problems. By providing a garden of rich and relatively unrestricted examples of natural phenomena and technological props, a museum can create a play ground of science that helps develop the fundamental experiences necessary for later learning.

In a museum, where the age and background of the visitors are incredibly diverse, one quickly realizes that the range of knowledge of the visitors is immense. Not only do visitors have many different and disparate world views of nature, they have differing amounts of formalized instruction in science. The visiting public ranges from a six-year-old child to a PhD physicist. In fact, the same family group may include both.

The next time you feel like exploring, and you are limited to Sarasota, take a trip to G WIZ. You will find many wondrous exhibits that will stretch your mind and leave you feeling exhilarated. Don't wait until the next time Columbus Day comes around.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Bridge Over Troubled Waters

The tide keeps coming.

Recent articles and opinions about our current red tide bloom.

Dead tide

Red tide is a problem that just won't go away. Even when the dreaded bloom is seemingly gone from our waters, you can bet it will return. Again and again and again. The fish-killing algae is nothing new. It has haunted Florida's Gulf Coast communities seemingly forever. But in years past, it was a fleeting thing ... for the most part. There have been cases where red tide has shown up and lasted for weeks and even months, but those who have lived around the area for a few years will likely agree it's different this time around.

Most of us aren't scientists. But you don't have to have a marine biology degree from an Ivy League school to figure out that the times have changed. As this area becomes more and more popular and the population continues to explode, the environment suffers.

Laura Sperling
Vibrant Gulf only a memory

Back in the day when swimming off Lido was my favorite exercise, marine life was just part of the deal.

But those days are long gone -- done in by increasingly persistent red tide. When the water's toxic enough to kill rays, dolphins, fish and all the other amazing creatures who share the Gulf, humans have no business sticking their face in it.
Because they end up offshore, I don't use yard fertilizers and pesticides. The reward for my do-goodery is a shabby patch of dirty sand, which once was my lawn, and the hope (or delusion) that my tiny sacrifice will somehow help the big picture.
I can't look at a storm drain -- or a lift station, for that matter -- without thinking: What are they putting in the bay and Gulf? I suspect that sea critters are asking the same thing.

Related letters to the editor in Sunday's SHT:

"The gulf was our shining treasure here in Sarasota, and it has become a toxic soup", more.

"Will our Gulf waters bounce back in my lifetime? I don't think so". The rest of the letter.

"Editorial writer Laura Sperling's perspective on the evisceration of marine Gulf life is shared by many folks like myself who spend our working days on the water as charter boat captains, eco-educators, commercial crabbers and fin-fish harvesters." The rest of this letter.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Can You Hear Me Now?

Sculpture at City Hall.

Nobody's Listening

Jack Cartlidge

Bob Ardren has a good article about the City's 2005 Survey results in this week's Pelican Press:

But the number of citizens pleased with the direction the city is going, how welcome city government is to citizen input and whether government listens to its citizens are all below the norm for cities the size of Sarasota. In fact, Sarasota was ranked in the bottom half of cities its size when it comes to listening to its citizens.

The Pelican also has an editorial about the survey:

A mirror reveals truths about the City of Sarasota. It isn’t always a pretty picture when we stare into the mirror in the morning. But the City of Sarasota can take comfort that along with its warts, that morning mirror, in the form of a recent poll of its citizens, also revealed some genuine beauty.

Looking at ourselves can be a source of insight. The insight does no good unless a real effort is made to understand and act upon the issues identified. While Sarasota has many positive aspects, we also have areas that need considerable focus and improvement. For some of these issues the process has started, for others we may still be denying there is a problem.

Again, we hope our City leaders take a long, hard look at these survey results. Listen to what was said.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

A Fading Queen?

Oh no! Say it ain't so!

I just got the new Sarasota Magazine and while flipping through the pages noted the back page story about this Dairy Queen.

After 52 years this red & white icon will soon be making way for, guess what, a new office building.

While it may not happen for a couple years, times are changing. For better or worse, Sarasota is becoming a real city, as our commissioners like to say.

The Sarasota Mag story quotes owner Linda Pawloski, "To many people, the new one's aren't real Dairy Queens. It has to have that outdoor counter; there's something about it that makes them comfortable." Kinda like the Hob Nob - a comfortable place that welcomes everyone.

And, there is the Stuart Kaminsky connection to this dairy Queen:

Lew Fonseca quit his job as a process server with the State Attourney's Office in Cook County, Illinois, and drove his rattling Toyota south to escape the memories of his beloved late wife. Headed for Key West, the Toyota broke down in a Dairy Queen parking lot in Sarasota, Florida. Buoyed by the friendship of a few trustworthy souls, Lew settled there, making ends meet by doing some investigative work for local attorneys.

If you haven't read any of Kaminsky's Lew Fonesca novels, you are missing out on another real treat. Pick up a copy of any of these: Vengeance (1999), Retribution (2001), Midnight Pass (2003). Unique characters in a unique setting make for a memorable story (along with a good dose of Kaminsky's terrific story telling).

Here's hoping that Stuart Kaminsky writes a few more Fonesca stories before the DQ memory fades along with the rest of the unique and memorable Sarasota we all love.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Pressure on Historic Resources

This house, at 2088 Hawthorne, was designed by Alex Browning, one of the earliest Scottish settlers of the City, for his son Hugh Browning. Mr. Browning also designed a nice Tudor style nearby on Arlington Street for another of his children (that is currently being used as an adult living center).

This particular house, in the Arlington Park Neighborhood, is under contract and the purchaser has filed a re-zone request to change the zoning from RMF-3 to OND (Office Neighborhood District).

While the purchaser has indicated she will keep the current structure and use it as an office (apparently it has a special exception that allows office use), she will not consider a proffer that would keep the building intact in the future.

The property has about 15,000 sq ft and could accommodate a large office building at some point in the future if the zoning were to be changed.

Some nearby residents would like to keep the "protected status" of the current zoning and special exception use. The Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation also favors the current zoning.

This proposed re-zone is on the Agenda of the Planning Board for the Oct. 12 meeting at City Hall.

Sarasota faces loss of historical resources as our city yields to the pressure of development. If ways can be found that allow co-existence of the old and the new, all of us benefit. It would seem that finding a way to assure a long future for this building would be good for Sarasota.

Monday, October 03, 2005

If You Have to Build an Arcade

Take a look at this wonderful pedestrian space. This is the Grove Arcade Public Market in Asheville, NC. It was built in 1929. Notice the skylights. Open to the sky yet protected from the elements.

Notice it is within the building. Not over public right of way.

Maybe this is a model for the Pineapple Square "breezeway". Leave the width of the street right of way intact, and put an open skylight across the top. This would allow air circulation when desirable and would let daylight and nightlight in all the time. Just like being outdoors, but with some protection.

Of course you can't park on top of this skylight. But then, we don't have to give up air rights above the block of State Street that the developer is asking to be vacated.

This would make a great statement about why people are drawn to Florida's coasts. People love the outdoors, the climate (OK not so much the heat and humidity of deep summer), the tropical and native Florida vegetation. Why enclose everything inside walls?

The Sarasota School of Architecture celebrated the settings surrounding the buildings. Passage from inside to outside was made seamless. The outdoors was brought into the building. The Grove Arcade is reminiscent of this ideal - connecting the inside with the outside.

The Grove Arcade Building in Ashville, NC
Built in 1929.

These pictures are from a recent SHT Style Magazine story.

Wal-Mart Thoughts

This story appeared in the Madison, WI, Capital Times. Something for Sarasota to think about as the Newtown Wal-Mart proposal is considered.

Win for Wal-Mart, loss for Jefferson
By John Nichols September 29, 2005

The city of Jefferson provides a textbook example of what happens when a city loses control of its own affairs.

In 2001, the local meat processing plant - a 120-year-old concern with solid roots in the community - was purchased by the Tyson conglomerate. The Arkansas corporation quickly provoked a long and nasty labor dispute as part of a move to cut local pay and benefits. The long and bitter strike created serious tensions in what had once been a tight-knit and prosperous community.

Now, following a move by Wal-Mart - another Arkansas-based corporation - to elbow its way into the local retail market, the Jefferson County community of 7,338 finds itself even more deeply divided.

On Tuesday, a Jefferson alderman who stood up for local retailers and employees was narrowly recalled from his position by a candidate who was friendly to Wal-Mart.

The vote was so close that neither side can claim a mandate. Ald. David Olsen, the subject of the recall, won 815 votes, or 48 percent of the vote, while his challenger, Chris Havill, received 880 votes, or 52 percent of the total.

Still, the removal of Olsen, a local funeral director with deep roots in the community, is a boost for Wal-Mart and out-of-state retailers that have decided to radically reshape commerce in Wisconsin communities.

Indeed, as Olsen said after the vote, "The real winner tonight was Wal-Mart, which shows the power of a big corporation to reach in and have a great impact on a city."

Olsen is right about that, just as he and his supporters are right to fear the impact.

Wal-Mart, like Tyson, makes its money by cutting wages and benefits for workers, forcing out locally owned competitors, and treating communities as "sources of revenue" rather than hometowns.

David Olsen had the courage to stand up to Wal-Mart, which wanted to build a so-called "supercenter" in Jefferson. That made him a marked man politically, and the powerful interests he opposes succeeded in taking him out on Tuesday.

Unfortunately, history will prove Olsen to have been correct.

Just as Wal-Mart was the winner on Tuesday, so Jefferson will be the loser in the long run.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

How Are We Doing? City Survey Results Give Insight

The results of the recent city survey are available on the city web site. Be sure to look at the "Results" and the "Normative Comparisons" sections of the survey results.

There is some very interesting information here. We are surprised that neither the city nor the media has said much about this survey, to date.

The data is presented in several different ways. The basic data shows what people in Sarasota think about where we live and how our local government meets their expectations. Another section of the report shows how our views compare to how people in other cities (comparable in size to Sarasota) view their own city.

In the basic data of the report we find that
  • 67% of the residents in Sarasota believe access to affordable housing is poor.
  • 76% believe that too much growth is a problem (47% a major problem, 29% a moderate problem)
  • 80% believe traffic congestion is a problem (44% a major problem, 26% a moderate problem)

While all of us choose to live in Sarasota, we all recognize that Sarasota could be better.

The comparison to other similar cities tells us whether a problem is universal or is it a problem particular to Sarasota. These results are shown in graphic form below.

This graph shows that, compared to cities across the U.S. we are not pleased with the overall direction of the city. There are also problems with welcoming citizen involvement and listening by our government.

Here we see that we rate ourselves quite low in access to affordable housing and ease of travel, whether it be car, bus, biking or walking.

This graphic comparison shows that we believe there are significant problems with storm water, drinking water and sewer services.

We will post more material from this survey and make comments on the data and the survey itself.

There is information here that should provide good direction to our city leaders. We hope they look at this data carefully and determine why the citizens have identified these problems. Then, of course, policies and strategies need to be set to address these issues.

Incidentally, our access to retail, cultural activities and library services rated amongst the highest across the U.S. While we may need to make sure access to these remains good, it would seem that city priorities should be shifted to those areas where we have definite problems.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Red Tide Conversation at the Metro, Sept 29

A good sized crowd gathered at the Metro Cafe, Thursday, September 29, 2005 at 7 pm for the open discussion about red tide and the dead zones in theGulf of Mexico.

Jude Levy opened with her concerns as a resident of many years who loves to swim in the Gulf. In the past, the converation about Red Tide (Karenia brevis) has been a topic for the scientists, but the health of the sea affects us all and we all have contributed to the current sad situation. This is the longest running red tide outbreak in recorded history and there is no let up in sight. (It started last December!)

Whether you live near the beach, like to walk on the beach, swim, fish, snorkel, sail or bird watch - all of these activities make Sarasota a special place to be. With a lifeless sea and an eye burning breezes, tourists leave, residents leave, fishing activities leave - there is a vast ripple effect from red tide and dead zones.

Allan Horton moderated the discussion. He's a lifelong resident of Florida, retired from the Herald Tribune, writing Waterlines for the Pelican Press. His background in environmental science and experience boating on the waters up and down the coast made him the perfect balance for a conversation which honored all points of view.

Let's open with some red tide facts. The organism produces a toxin that can affect the central nervous system of fish, birds, mammals and other animals. In high concentrations, our particular type sometimes discolors the water red. Various types of red tides occur around the globe. Red tide was first officially recorded in Florida in 1844 but mentions of it are in the conquistador diaries and there is petrified proof it was here long before that, right here in Sarasota County. No one factor causes it. But it requires warmth, oxygen and nutrients to bloom for it is always in the water and the sediment. Those nurturing factors occur naturally.

But our human activity has to be supplementing those ingedients expoentially! We already have good evidence that we are making it worse and extending the outbreaks. And, the dead zone is a new phenomena for us and it is truly frightening. It may cover 8,000 sq. miles already. Read Allan Horton's Waterlines in this week's Pelican Press for his take on red tide.

When he and others attended the Mote lecture there was a slide show which indicated "minorities" need to be educated on this topic. The slide showed various brown children. Allan suggested that the minorities who really need education are the elected officials who have the power to fund the research to come up with a solution to this problem. First participant who spoke felt strongly that the current situation is caused by dredging, dredging the channels, dredging for beaches. He also implicated fertilizers in runoff. He finds the renourishment of beaches a serious miscalculation in several ways: 1) they clog up the the passes as the sand washes off beaches and 2) they smother the life on shore and close to shore, 3) who knows what damage is done to bottom life from the dredged up points and 4) it's expensive! $21 million spent to renourish the beaches. He would like to see Terry Gibbons invited to speak tocommissioners about this. It was mentioned that it was the common wisdom that hurricanes cleaned out the waters. Countered with, yes, but, Sarasota hasn't experienced a frontal hurricane in over 40 years.

The next person mentioned the toxic soup dumped by the Mulberry Corp. He lives on Palmolo Place and has seen raw sewage spills while the government entities in charge looked the other way. He thinks the many Venice, Sarasota and Bradenton raw sewage spills have played a part in feeding red tide. He wonders what will get the City and County commissioners attention- dropping land values perhaps.

Chair of the Manatee-Sarasota Sierra Club says her group has been actively speaking up about nitrogen runoff for a long time and have been ignored. The Sierra Club plans a large public meeting in January 2006 (at Sudakoff) with a panel including Larry Brand who has been doing independent study of the problem (he's a professor from Miami). We can not wait for the research to do something, she said. There is so much going into the Gulf it is a puzzle but we can do some things. We should stop runoff into ourwaterways now. That's a place to start. We can't wait for all the studies. Each person can do something - by giving up green grass, for instance.

Allan reminded everyone that the major rivers emptying into the Gulf bring their own sets of discharges, esp. rivers like the Mississippi, so a wideview of stewardship is necessary, too.

Lifelong resident, Don Chaney, son of a commercial fisherman, remembers red tide when he was a child. There was dredging then, too. The intracoastal was dredged. Arvida filled in Bird Key with dredged sediment from Sarasota Bay. He, too, went to the Mote meeting and was impressed with the professor from USF. He provided handouts with a summary of his presentation. Last weekend he sailed from Sarasota to Tampa Bay. There was some marine life in the Manatee River but otherwise, only dead fish and lethargic seabirds. Returning on Monday the red tide was the worst. He has never seen anything like this outbreak and the one he remembers from the 50s was bad. He believes that the fertilizers washing into the waters is the most important contributing factor. He thinks there are things we can do besides stop using fertilizer; we can stop the destruction of wetlands which cleanse contributing waters, hold storm water runoff, etc. If we don't take care of our ecology, our ecology won't take care of us. The Gulf of Mexico provides jobs and resources beyond measure. It is worth any money spent to repair its health.

Mr. Schneider, who has a scientific background, feels that most of the information on red tide is speculative. He thinks we need more scientific research to solve this problem. Let's direct money to Mote to do job. Encourage the legislatures to give more money for marine research.

Joe Shane, editor of local newspaper, said he had a aha! moment when he was thinking about red tide and last year's hurricane season. Millions of gallons of phosphate waste were spilled out of the Hillsborough River and that created a plume, spread by the hurricane which set off this long run of red tide.

Jack Anderson said he has seen those phosphate mines and they are toxic cesspools. He's from Kentucky and he knows of what he speaks. A man identifying himself as a scientist reflected that he hopes there are scientists at this gathering. This is a biological problem which requires a biological solution. He did concede that higher temperatures (globalwarming) and sewage spills may be exacerbating the bloom.

Ginger from the Sierra Club contributed that algal blooms need oxygen and phosphorous. And there are already rich natural phosphorous deposits along our coast and inland feeding into the Gulf.

Allan sees coal fired power plants as contributors. And as for solutions, he urged caution. We need to be careful and not make the situation worse by rushing in with "solutions". Many of our past solutions for problems haunt us to this day, like introducing white punk trees to dry up wetlands (they are now a statewide noxious plant).

Ed from Siesta Key has lived here for ten years. This cure needs to be magically accelerated, he asserted. Mote is only doing research, collecting data, not finding a cure. Where will funds for a cure come from? He was glad to see Jon Thaxton (Sarasota County Commissioner) and Ken Shelin (Sarasota City Commissioner) at this meeting. He really hopes we aren't at a meeting like this one three years from now saying the samethings.

The editor thinks all the affected business, tourist service industry, restaurants, beach motels should get together and press a class action suit against the phosphate industry for their dumping and spills. Then they could prove they are not implicated (their stance without substantial evidence to back it up) and pay for the research.

Sylvia Blanco shared that she has asthma and this outbreak is very much affecting her health. She'd like to see the statistics on visits to the local hospitals for respritory complaints. This needs to be documented. Rob Bolesta of the health department said that Sarasota Memorial and Mote Marine Lab are gathering this data. There is a 54% increase during red tide outbreaks for people along the coastal areas. It basically affects upper respiratory system - eyes, nose, etc. but asthmatics are more sensitive to the red tide toxin.

Websites to check: Mote and the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. He and his staff just spent two days at a "harmful algal bloom" workshop in St. Pete. So far the concern over red tide has been "fragmented" there needs to be a coalition and it is long overdue for the public to be involved, educated. Up to now, it's been the purview of Fish & Wildlife, Mote, USF, other govt. entities. Sarasota and Manateee have the highest concentration of red tide in recent history.

Citizens are upset and want to be involved, want to do something. Red tide tends to start in the center of the Gulf and then blows into shore. He mentioned citizen responsibility and stewardship. Everyone must learn more. From a public health standpoint, he says the health department is trying to get out information. He brought handouts. Sarasota County is looking at involving the public more. The health department samples 16 beaches throughout Sarasota County weekly. There have been no beach advisories this year for high bacteria. After the problems at Siesta Beach last year, community activists rallied and became involved and this has helped the situation. He felt that community coalitions have helped stop the raw sewage spills. He reminded everyone that pets are at risk at the beach, too. The sea foam has ten times the toxins found in the water. He is hopeful we can all work together to find solutions. We can all do something now by reducing nutrient runoff. There's lots of talent and expertise right here in our community if we would band together. Another website:

Someone wondered if there have been any scientific studies on the long term effects of red tide on healthy people. Rob B. didn't know of any. A woman wondered if the city and county sewer lines were adequate and why did they allow sewage dumps during heavy rains. How can runaway growth be adequately serviced? Rob B. said that rainfall dumps are regulated by EPAand state standards. That the infrastructure is aging and failing and has to be replaced.

Brian, a young man of 30, said he lost part of his lung due to red tide. We watch manatees, porpoises and turtles die. How many people have to die to get some attention, he wanted to know? Why not close the beaches since this is a health hazard? Rob B. mentioned that over the counter antihistamines help with red tide symptoms.

Question: Has red tide mutated? It seems more virulent. Rob B. No. But continous exposure compromises the immune system and the body is less able to recover. Repeated exposure will worsen symptoms. Rob B. - Sarasota County is talking about posting warning flags at the beaches. Someone suggested SNN could have a beach report (where tides and temps are now) so folks could know the situation before driving out the beaches. Rob B.thinks the report would change not only day to day but hour to hour as the prevailing winds dispurse it. He hopes a red tide program could be instituted on Channel 19. There needs to be a multi-media approach to getting out information.

Marty Sanger noted that red tide is a national problem not just a local one and the national government right now is working actively to decrease waterand air quality. This is a problem in terms of attention for marine health funding.

Member of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce said there's a subcommittee at the Chamber on red tide research. So far the response has been reactive instead of proactive. He didn't know if the County was seeking a cure. He represents 135 small accommodations owners and they are sitting there with empty rooms because the tourists are staying away.

Gayle Reynolds, chair of the conservation committee of the Sarasota Sierra Club, says what is missing in this conversation is the massive effects of development. We are paving over our wetlands, cutting down trees, allowing runoff from impervious surfaces. There should be a moratorium on coastal development.

Speaking of the need for trees to absorb runoff, keep in mind that the City is finalizing its downtown code and will decide if arcades will be included in the downtown Main Street redevelopment guidelines. Where there are arcades, there are no trees. Let's see: trees to absorb runoff, cool the air, create breezes, clean up the air, soften the concrete canyon or cement arcades which hunker out to the curb, cover public sidewalks, create heat sinks in the summer, give the builder more usable space above them for free. If you would like to vote for trees downtown, call the city commissioners and the planningdepartment. 954-4115.

Kate of Laurel Park advised the continuation of research. There are lots of contributing factors like global warming, but phosphate is the biggy. State and local governments can do something about the phosphate industry's outfall and this would be a start. (By the way, most of the phosphate is shipped out of this country and notused in the U.S. at all.)

Susan Masterson's contribution was that now is the time to create acoalition, get all the interested groups together and create one large meeting. Let's start a petition drive. Create a voting block. There is power in numbers.

Allan concluded that over the past sixty years, the population growth in this area has increased ten fold! With this increase in population, the degradation of the Gulf has proceeded at a pace for years. But, now we are at a serious time - as Pogo observed: We have seen the Enemy and (s)he is Us!A question from someone who couldn't attend: Please ask - what if THIS redtide is permanent?

Submitted by Jude Levy