Wednesday, December 07, 2005

"The city has really screwed up by listening to the public paper"

We also looked twice when we read that original statement. What kind of a statement is that? [As you can see in the comments, it was a mis-quote. We have modified this post to make sure that everyone understands that it was a mis-quote.]

Today in the SHT we read about the Wednesday Farmer’s Market "start up" problems. Apparently some businesses in the Burns Square area are struggling with access and parking issues during the Market time:

City commissioners tried to address the parking issue when they put together a deal to buy the Orange Dolphin Galleria and replace it with a parking garage on Dolphin Street. But the commissioners backed out of the expensive and unpopular deal.

"The city has really screwed up by listening to the public paper and not buying the Dolphin lot," said Denise Kowal, president of the Burns Square Property Owners Association. "Commissioners have to wake up and put a parking garage in our area."

Elsewhere in the same edition we read about a proposed condo project biting the dust:

Sarasota Main Street LLC's decision to scuttle plans for Washington Place marks what some believe could be a market correction and a shift away from escalating land prices. Sarasota Main Street partner Michael Langton cited rising land prices and construction costs as the primary reasons for abandoning the 69-unit condo project, first proposed in July.

"What's happening in Sarasota is everyone has been getting inflated amounts for land, and it's gotten out of hand in the last six months," Langton said Tuesday. "That's what's killed this deal."

What’s the connection? It seems like the public was absolutely correct in believing that the Dolphin deal was too expensive. We are now seeing projects that are struggling because of high land costs.

We expect our City Commissioners to listen to the public. The public was vocal about the Dolphin deal and the Commissioners listened. Not listening to the public will always prove problematic to elected officials.

This happened recently when City Commissioners voted to give the land owners of Burns Square the Downtown Core zoning allowing 10 story high rise buildings, instead of the agreed upon Downtown Edge zoning that would have kept building heights to 5 stories. The public supported 5 story buildings in this historic area. This is what the public wanted when the Downtown Master plan was reviewed and accepted. This is what the public expected.

Instead, a different direction was taken.

As we have indicated previously, the city survey completed earlier this year noted that in response to the question "I am pleased with the overall direction that the city is taking", responders ranked Sarasota in the 13th percentile compared to cities our size - way below the norm.

In response to the question "The city of Sarasota government listens to citizens", the responders ranked Sarasota in the 27th percentile. Again well below the norm.

Is our government working to listen better? Do they understand why citizens are not pleased with the direction the city is taking? We hope this is happening.

Several important decisions about our city's direction will be made in the next couple months. The Commissioners will have the opportunity to listen and make decisions that will take Sarasota in a direction that is in line with what the public wants and expects. The opportunity is here now.

By listening to the citizens and acting according to the public's wishes, the Commissioners will be applauded. They will certainly not screw up by listening to the public.
The newspaper is a major voice in our community in commenting on public policy. As we all know there are many sides to the newspaper. The editorial side gives honest, well researched opinions about important community issues. The news side reports on issues and they take great care to present all sides of an issue while at the same time dealing with known facts - they do focus on conflict as this is what many readers like to read. It is likely that news stories about conflict are not pleasing to everyone. They do make interesting reading however. Another side of the newspaper is investigative reporting - in depth study and reporting on major issues in our community - large issues that need careful study and policy decisions that really address community needs.

While all of us take issue with the newspaper from time to time, it does serve the community well. It is a significant voice in the community and we would all suffer without this voice.


denise Kowal said...

Dick: It is called a misquote and if you checked the paper today you would most likely see a correction. It would have been nice if you called and asked me about it.

Also, I never heard a response from you, after you so terribly misrepresented the Charrette the Burns Square Property Owners conducted, on my offer to give a presentation to all the neighborhoods on our thoughts so far at the next CCNA meeting? Again was your interest in my neighborhood attacking or really interest?

Mike Saewitz said...

Hey all, I don't usually post on message boards. But I wanted to set the record straight on Denise Kowal's quote about the Farmers' Market. She said "paper" and not "public." I just misheard her. So swap out the words, and you'll have a correct quote!
Thanks, and feel free to e-mail me on any City of Sarasota issues.
Mike Saewitz
Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Anonymous said...

That makes no sense at all. "the City really screwed up listening to the paper."? I believe the "public" was much more critical of the deal than the paper, and was the main reason the Commission backed down from the deal. Being misquoted is unfortunate, but for a reporter to get that one wrong is deplorable. Now is this revisionist politics?

Anonymous said...

The City Commission avoided thousands of dollar of legal expenses by not taking away value from the property owners of Burns Court.

This was the smart move and the right thing to do for the Public. You should not take away someone's worth even if a group claiming itself the "Public" is asking for it.

Fortunately this is not what happened.

Anonymous said...

The paper does misquotes all the time in fact we at SOS threw a few hissys at the paper for things they wrote about us. So we should understand that the paper does not get everything right. It is hard for them to take a big story and put it into 500 words or less sometimes. We need to realize there is always many sides and I hope we at SOS do not continue to show just one.

SOS1 said...

Editor note:
SOS has been quick to comment about perceptions or statements concerning issues with which we do not agree. We have not complained about mis-quotes.

SOS fully undrstands ther are many sides to an issue. We have stated our mission (see the Mar 15 post) and we encourage community conversation about these issues.

We also post our point of view.

Anonymous said...

What is "our" point of view? Who is "our"?

Anonymous said...

Please! The SHT is a subsidiary of the NYT, as is the Los Angeles Times and Boston Globe. I'd venture a guess that over 2/3rd's of the articles in the SHT are "pasted" from their sister newspapers...and they are all way, way far left on every issue.

Finally, to say that the editorial page offers "honest, well researched" opinions is absolutely laughable.

Gretchen Serrie said...

I have more faith in the city manager, commissioners and staff than to believe they caved to pressure from either the newspapers or the public on the Orange Dolphin site.

After making the decision to pursue the property, they discovered previously unforeseen problems and backed away from purchase of the site, an option provided for in their original decision/motion.

Not all decisions are “right,” but the most effective leaders are able to make a quick correction when a mistake has been made. The commission did that. Congratulations.

And recent comments by developers about inflated prices of city properties serve to corroborate the wisdom of that correction.

denise kowal said...

It would be wise to not get all worked up over the quote in the paper since it was a very small portion of a larger conversation and it does not come close to revealing the whole story. Of course there is more to the story and how civic parking will be provided for in Burns Square. We are convinced the purchase of the Dolphin lot to provide a parking structure for Burns Square would be a very sound decision for the city. The Property Owners Association is more than happy to speak on this subject with those not convinced. We would also be interested in your constructive input on the subject so please blog us at

Anonymous said...

Its interesting that Ms. Kowal seems to know a little bit more about what is going on at the Orange Dolphin than some of the rest of you. This property is currently in the planning stages for a ten story building (along with the adjacent parcel owned by David Christner). No doubt meetings are underway with City officials. It was a very timely decision that granted DTC zoning- don't you think?

denise Kowal said...

To 9:53 AM: The answer to what you find interesting is that I work very hard with others in our community, including the city and county to improve Burns Square, Laurel Park and our city in general. I know a lot about Burns Square because I am the president of the Burns Square Property Owners Association, I have owned several properties in the area including the Herald Square Building for over 20 years, I have also had a business in the area for over 20 years, I have lived with my two sons in the area for 10 years, I have been an active community citizen with the other businesses during the past 20 years and started the Burns Square Association representing the businesses back in 2000.

I also know a lot about Laurel Park because I own a home there which was my first home when I moved to Sarasota in 1980, my entire family also lives in Laurel Park. I was a strong active supporter of retaining the current zoning.

So I think it is safe to say, I am quite knowledgeable about the areas and what it going on and for those reasons I find it hard to understand why you see this as interesting, for it is realistic.

As to your other questions, I am not quite sure what you are trying to say about the Orange Dolphin lot. It is no secret that I support the purchase of a site for a civic parking structure by the city for the Burns Square area. This is talked about on our blog at

Your other question are too vague for me to fully respond but it appears you are trying to make it negative or something besides reasonable community activity.

Anonymous said...

We at SOS did complain to the paper when they used the wrong word to describe the "doctored" photos about the arcades. Janice Green complained and was all upset about it.