Friday, September 29, 2006

NY Times Editorial on Zoning

NY Times Editorial:

September 29, 2006

More Comfort for the Comfortable

Congress, which has done so little this session to address the nation’s real problems, is expected to vote today on a deeply misguided giveaway for big real estate developers. The bill would create new property rights that could in many cases make it difficult, if not impossible, for local governments to stop property owners from using their land in socially destructive ways. It should be defeated.

The Private Property Rights Implementation Act would make it easier for developers challenging zoning decisions to bypass state courts and go to federal court, even if there was not a legitimate federal constitutional question. Zoning regulations are quintessentially local decisions. This bill would cast this tradition aside, and involve the federal government in issues like building density and lot sizes.

The bill would also make it easier for developers to sue when zoning decisions diminished the value of their property. Most zoning does that. Developers would make more money if they could cram more houses on small lots, build skyscrapers 200 stories tall, or develop on endangered wetlands. The bill would help developers claim monetary compensation for run-of-the-mill zoning decisions on matters like these. It would also make it easier for them to intimidate local zoning authorities by threatening to run to federal court.

Zoning is not an attack on property rights. It is an important government function, and most Americans appreciate that it helps keep their own neighborhoods from becoming more crowded, polluted and dangerous. If more people knew the details of this bill, there would be wide opposition. As it is, attorneys general from more than 30 states, of both parties, have joined the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Conference of State Legislatures and leading environmental groups in opposing it.

The bill does a lot of things its supporters claim to abhor. House Republicans were elected on a commitment to states’ rights and local autonomy, and opposition to excessive litigation and meddling federal judges. It is remarkable how quickly they have pushed these principles aside to come to the aid of big developers.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Comment On PAC Issue

Rich Alpher (County Planning Commissioner) wrote the following in response to the recent political attack ads paid for by members of the development community and fronted by two Sarasota School system teachers:


ONE (1) - As I wrote when I first heard about the "teacher's" PAC I also noted that on the day I heard about it a report noted that Florida students were last or near last in SAT scores. I recommended that the $70,000 spent by the "teachers" (who have seemingly disappeared into an abyss of silence after their embarrassing sojourn into the PAC) be better used toward software that could help improve SAT scores.

Or, in the alternative, that the money be used to donate to Habitat to be used for two homes (leveraged) for teacher's aides here in the County. Or, that it even be given to our orgnaization, Rebuild Sarasota (RS), to rehabilitate substandard homes not for profit. That is an organization of which Joe [Barbetta] is also a board member; and unfortunately must soon resign. So far RS has turned 5-6 substandard homes into livable and affordable homes - I suspect that is more than all the contributors combined to the attack ads against Joe.

TWO (2) - in order to atone for the waste of thousand of dollars of their money in false and negative ads against a good and honest man, those on the list in the development and building industry, such as Tom Dabney, the Turners, Mr. Rivolta, etc. should donate a like amount to affordable housing. The total was nearly $90,000 which would leverage into 2 Habitat homes; or given to RS would allow us to rehabilitate 20 or more substandard homes to prevent gentrification and allow, especially, older people on fixed income to live out their lives in homes that don't leak, have good windows, have new paint and other minor repairs. To tell you the truth I never hear anyone on the list who appeared before the Planning Commission ever use the word affordable housing.

I don't know the e-mails of most people on the contribution list; but I have no problem for anyone who receives this e-mail to forward it to any of the individuals.

In fact, I challenge Messrs. Dabney, Turner, Rivolta and others to match what a great and conscientious and good-hearted developer (and a good friend)
[Henry Rodriguez] did here awhile ago. He donated $100,000 to Habitat for Humanity which built two homes with the money. I was at the dedication of one of those homes. It was a nurse's aide with kids who was attending school to become a nurse.


You are welcome to forward my e-mail to whomever you choose. It is what it is.

Regards, Rich Alpher
Board Member, Rebuild Sarasota, Inc.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Parking at Pineapple - Departure Times Lengthening?

The recent issue of the Pelican has an interesting story about parking questions at Pineapple Square:

Pineapple Square, the mammoth downtown mixed-use project that's benefitted from a series of "good buddy" deals on city-owned land, faces a series of probing design questions this week when developers appear before the city's design review committee. [The discussion at the DRC was cancelled at the last minute]

In a memorandum from the city's new parking manager, Bob Kamper, to City Attorney Bob Fournier, Kamper provided a 20-point list of "questions and concerns" regarding the public garage proposed for the City Place portion of Pineapple Square. Under the existing agreements with the Pineapple Square developers, the city is to lease 350 parking spaces in the garage building which will span State Street. The latest proposed term is 105 years.

Among the 20 points Kamper has raised are the need for an additional traffic lane into and out of the garage. There is only one inbound and one outbound in the initial proposal and he's suggesting an additional reversible lane. "One lane in and one out is not enough," he writes in the memorandum, especially if they are to handle a total of more than 500 "public use" vehicles including those of United Methodist Church and condos in the building.

Without that extra capacity, Kamper said, users of the garage could expect "45 minute to one hour egress times as the facility has been designed," especially during special events.

We recall during discussions with Simon, including statements he made at the public hearings, that the State Street lot was worth nothing as a parking structure since the size and shape could not be designed to hold an efficient parking structure. Simon said that every car going into and out of the parking lot would have to drive past all other cars parked there.

Now it appears that the parking lot he (Simon) prefers may take 45 to 60 minutes for a driver to exit. How valued will this be?

Sarasota Bayside (Quay) Model

Today's SHT business section has a nice picture of the Sarasota Bayside (Quay) project model. The model is quite impressive. The story indicates that it will be available for public viewing at a Neighborhood Workshop that has yet to be scheduled.

Benderson's project on Main is starting its way through the development process with a site plan, major conditional use request (3 bank drive throughs), and a street vacation request (Adelia St) at the next Planning Board meeting. Also soon to be coming back will be the 18 story DeMarcay proposal.

Both of these projects should have a model like Sarasota Bayside has produced. A model showing the proposed building in the surrounding environment.

The Sarasota Bayside people indicated their model cost approximately $15,000. While this is a significant sum of dollars, its not going to break the bank. It would be really nice if major projects were required to have such a model as part of the development process.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Hispanic Latino Festival

The Hispanic Latino Coalition, a nonprofit organization in Sarasota that aims to serve the Hispanic community is organizing a festival on September 30th. This promises to be a great multi-cultural event. It will be downtown from 5 to midnight.

Why not stop down and connect with your friends and neighbors and maybe learn a little about this culture. The festival atmosphere will make this a lively downtown event for everyone!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Affordable Homes in Our Area

Following is a story that ran in the Bradenton Herald a few days ago. It was featured in Planetizen, a planning web site that includes current news articles.

Big push for smaller houses
Company hopes for OK to construct on lots smaller than city codes
Herald Staff Writer

BRADENTON - With some concrete and stucco, a little paint and some sweat, a young man plans to help families in Bradenton own a home, like he does already at age 23.

As president of a construction company, Chris Moskowitz's goal is to build homes families can afford. He does this with an idealistic attitude and expectation of building pride through first-time homeownership for the people who settle in the modest houses he builds.

"Are they perfect? No," Moskowitz said. "But would I live in them? Yes."

The catch for his latest project - squeezing a home on a lot smaller than city code allows, thus requiring a variance granted by the city's planning commission. Approval on Wednesday from the commission would allow Moskowitz to start building seven homes on a plot of land in east Bradenton. The houses would sell for $172,500 each, a price rarely seen on new construction in the area.

The houses are simple and small, with 900 square feet accommodating three bedrooms and two baths. A one-car garage would come with each home along with two wooden rocking chairs for the front porches, a detail Moskowitz hopes will contribute to a friendly atmosphere where neighbors know each other.

Moskowitz pieced together vacant lots to form the approximately 30,000 square-foot area off of 21st Street East, between Seventh and Eighth avenues East.

When his application first landed in the city planning department director, Tim Polk wasn't pleased with the style of the homes, but Polk said Moskowitz has added features the city would like to see on infill construction. The city wanted more detailed features around the windows and doors. Polk now looks at the plans as a pilot project that will spur more construction like it and possibly on a larger scale.

"He's creating value for that particular neighborhood," Polk said.

Infill construction occurs when a developer purchases land in an existing neighborhood and builds homes to fit the surrounding character, all the while increasing value and improving the condition of an area.

The cluster of homes would be nestled between a mobile home park and existing single-family homes in Braden Manor, a neighborhood that has become somewhat blighted, Polk said.

Moskowitz plans to build thirty homes by the end of this year, a significant jump from the 13 his company built last year and the four built in 2004.

Tom Fontana purchased one of the first homes Moskowitz ever built, making himself a homeowner for the first time. He took a homebuyer course and received assistance from the county.

"Nobody likes living in an apartment and paying for something you don't own," Fontana said.

A graduate of Southeast High School, Moskowitz looks to his past as the reason he wants to focus his business on the niche of affordable housing. He lived with his mother most of his life and she never owned a home. They moved often and at times stayed in homeless shelters. Moskowitz considers a home to be a sanctuary or a castle, a place to protect a family.

"A home is a place where you pull up and you have pride," he said.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

More on Models

For many months Save Our Sarasota has urged the City Planning staff to require models for large development projects.

Recent models that have been available include the Cultural District proposal, the DeMarcay proposal .

Above is a recent picture of an extensive model of downtown Denver.

Sarasota Bayside (Quay) has constructed an excellent model of their proposed site. They will display it at the September 20 DRC meeting with city staff.

After that it will be displayed for the puiblic. We hope to post a picture at that time.

The Sarasota Bayside model is much more impressive than the pictured Denver model. The Sarasota Bayside model does give anexcellent view of the relationship of the new buildings within the existing built environment.

It is too bad that Pineapple Square did not provide a model before the hearings on their project.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Undermining the Political Process

Earlier we posted a list of direct contributors to "Citizens for a Better Sarasota," an Electioneering Committee whose purpose was to distort the record of one candidate for County Commission through televised attack ads. The contributors to this attack ad campaign are all from the development and construction businesses of Sarasota.

Many of these contributors are well known within the community and some currently hold leadership positions in prominent organizations.

Prominent among these are:

Tom Dabney - Chair Elect for the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce,
Charles Githler - Board Member of the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, Sarasota CRA Advisory Board Member
John Cox - Board Member of the Economic Development Council of Sarasota
Kathryn Carr - Board Member of Argus Foundation

Attack ads are known to be persuasive in political campaigns. They also seriously undermine the election process as they hide the sponsors names until after the election thus depriving the voters of information on which to evaluate the ads, they often present mis-truths or highly distorted information and they lead to high levels of voter cynicism concerning government. This is exactly what happened in the Sarasota County Commissioner Primary election - exactly what these "community leaders" wanted to happen.

When leaders of prominent community organizations engage in underhanded activities like this, it casts serious doubt on the organization that accepts their leadership. I have asked two of the organizations whether they have an ethics policy and whether these actions are consistent with such a policy. The only response has been:

All Chamber members, including directors and officers, are free to make contributions as private citizens to whatever entities they wish. It would seem unethical for the Chamber to legislate against freedom of choice and expression.

A call from the EDC echoed the same thought. What our leaders do on their time is not our concern. (What's done in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas?) It was also noted that Mr Cox was no longer a board member of the EDC - he had not been able to attend meetings.

Many citizens bemoan the fact that voting turnout continues to decline. With actions such as this funded by these "community leaders" it is no wonder that voters are very cynical about big money interests controlling the elections and those elected. It will not be surprising when citizens become even more cynical about the aims of these organizations as they try to influence public policy.

With the thought of an elected mayor in Sarasota (even with little power) we really need to consider the "Electioneering Committee" groups that would likely try to influence any mayoral election. Even putting limits on individuals for campaign funds (currently $200 for county elections and $500 for city elections) would not slow the Electioneering Committees and PACS. The Electioneering Committees apparently have a limit of $5000 per person or organization - but as we know from the recent experience this can easily be avoided when someone has multiple organizations which can make donations.

Since timing of these donations can be controlled so the donors are not known until after the election a serious undermining of the democratic process occurs.

When our community's leading organizations refuse to take a stand about the ethics of this behavior, it casts a strong shadow of doubt on the ability to have open and fair elections - including potentially an elected mayor. Maybe our current system spreads the risk of false information affecting elections enough and we should stick with our current system to minimize the opportunity for special interests to alter election through false and misleading advertising.

"Comment Policy" Change

Recently there have been comments posted on this blog that are personal attacks. These are also unsigned. In an attempt to keep as much discussion as possible but to eliminate publishing personal attacks I have switched to a "moderate comments" mode.

Comments will be published after I have the opportunity to review them. Comments critical of the statements made in the post will not be deleted. Personal attacks against specific people will be removed.

Other blogs have had to move to this kind of policy in the past and I had hoped to be able to just delete the occasional personal attack. This hasn't worked so I will try this alternative.

It is good to know that many people read the blog and some make comments, many make excellent points. Based on the bitterness shown in a few comments that have been removed it appears that maybe this blog is fostering thought about some of the critical issues facing Sarasota. I certainly hope so.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Commissioners Vote For Continued Community Discord

Despite the many requests of citizens, the city professional staff, the media and a number of organizations, the city commission voted in favor of the developer of the School Ave project and against the strong community voices that asked them to slow down and find a way to forge public acceptance.

In the last few years there have been a number of land use and zoning changes that have had public acceptance. These changes have occurred and everyone is happy. A key to the acceptance has been open and honest discussion between the developer and the community. While neither side may get everything they hope for, an excellent project is usually the result and community acceptance is assured.

There have also been a number of instances where public acceptance has not been found. In these instances the commission has not insisted that a step back be taken and more acceptance be found before proceeding. Instead they have sometimes rammed ahead and allowed the issue to continue to be a festering wound in our community. This does not have to happen and indeed there are a number of examples where major changes have been undertaken with the full support of the community and the closest neighbors. Unfortunately this is not the case with the School Ave project. Forging ahead with continued strong community disapproval is absolutely wrong. It is poor public leadership.

If commissioners believe the community is wrong in its beliefs, it is the commissioners' responsibility to educate, to open the discourse, to assure understanding. In essence, to show the leadership we expect.

We believe it is critically important that commissioners look at the current process and consider ways to assure public support before forcing a decision. Making a decision on projects that continually make last minute changes, changes that are not understood, changes that have not been reviewed, is a certain recipe for disaster. We deserve much better than this.

Developers continually say "time is money" and insist upon changing the process to streamline the decision making. Little thought is given to one of the most important issues: community acceptance. While this may take time and negotiation, community acceptance is one of the most critical aspects of any proposal.

[It is important to note that no evidence or testimony was given that suggested the project would not happen if it had to go back to the drawing board. Although this kind of statement was made elsewhere, no sworn testimony was given to this effect. The closest thing was the applicant's lawyer stating (paraphrased) he didn't care what the decision was, just give him a decision.]

We strongly urge the commissioners to look at the process we use and find ways to require more effort to find community acceptance on major proposals.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Listening to the Community

Recently Michael Saunders sent an e-mail to fellow board members of SCOPE asking for support of the School Ave proposal. In the e-mail it was indicated several times that only a small number of vocal neighbors oppose the proposal.

As of today the groups that oppose this proposal include:

City's professional Planning Staff
City's appointed Planning Commission
Respected members of our local American Institute of Architects (AIA) chapter
Pelican Press
City Coalition of Neighborhood Associations
Alta Vista Neighborhood Association
A number of individual neighborhood associations
Sarasota Herald Editorial Board

This is hardly a small group of vocal neighbors. It is a wide ranging group of community leaders, none of whom have a monetary interest in the project and do not stand to profit if it is accepted.

The city commission would do well to listen to the voice of these community leaders.

The SHT editorial is aptly titled "Good Idea Gone Bad". The affordable housing ideas may be good but this particular proposal for this particular location is bad.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Staff Recommends Denial

The city planning staff has unequivocally recommended denial of the School Ave proposal.

The basis for the recommendation is the many questions left unanswered about the proposal, a number of recent denials for the same request as part of other comp plan amendment processes, as well as the numerous procedure errors.

We hope the commissioners listen to the staff, listen to the neighbors and listen to the citizens of Sarasota and also deny this proposal.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Say NO to School Ave

The proposed School Ave land use change from Multi Family Medium Density to Downtown Urban Mixed Use has ignited a heated discussion within the community. The developer's (Ron Burks) proposal asks for the most dense and intense zoning to accompany the land use change. As an inducement to the city commissioners who will decide whether to grant this change, he has offered a significant number of affordable housing units.

The proposal would establish the most dense and highest land use next to the least dense land use. This is the crux of the issue - is the most dense and intense land use compatible with the least dense and intense land use - should these uses abut each other?

All planning principles would say no, these uses should not abut each other. Instead there should be a transition of density and intensity. Our codes and comp plan call for and provide for this transition.

Yet in this case, the developer has offered significant inducements (some call it “playing the affordable housing card”) in an attempt to get 3 commissioners to support his proposal.

The community has divided with the developer/business/real estate groups pressuring the commissioners to accept the plan, saying Sarasota needs this “solution” to our affordable housing problems. The neighborhoods and residents oppose the proposal, saying we do not want such high density abutting single family residential areas and if this can happen (developer offers inducement not based on codes or comp plan requirements) here it can happen in any area of the city. Further, why have a comp plan or zoning codes if they can easily be changed?

Simmering in the background are issues of procedure. Planning staff, a city attorney and a city manager issued a memo indicating the developer had missed significant dates for filing required plans thus putting the city in a position where it would violate city codes if it approved the proposal. The developer's attorney then indicated that under his interpretation of the rules he was OK. Thus a legal battle over technicalities.

The developer has determined that his affordable housing units would be available:

1. 40% to Sarasota Memorial Hospital employees
2. 15% to Sarasota County Fire Department employees
3. 15% to City of Sarasota Police Department employees
4. 15% to teachers employed by the Sarasota County School Board
5. 15% to other (non Police Department) City of Sarasota employees

This raises issues of why this particular selection of careers and percentages. This reserves the units for those working for government, typically people who have good salaries and excellent benefit packages, something that a non-government health or teaching career person may not have. What happens when the person in the family no longer works for the government (i.e., a job change) in one of these positions, does the family get booted out?

Since no specific discussion has been released or discussed/debated how does this particular plan meet city or county affordable housing objectives?

While the developer has indicated that the units would be priced between $100,000 and $200,000, no specific information has been publicized concerning the affordable units, such as size and pricing and numbers within each range. No information has been released concerning taxes, insurance and condo fees. To meet the city and state definition of affordable or attainable, the housing cost must not exceed 30% of the family income. Additionally, the Sarasota tax assessor has stated that the units would be appraised at market value which could well exceed selling price. What happens if the units as built are difficult to sell, because of size or ongoing costs?

The developer is working on a Memorandum of Understanding with Habitat for Humanity to manage and take over the affordable housing portion of the proposal. Apparently the developer would give land and a building shell to Habitat which would then “administer” the program. As of this writing, nothing has been released as to whether an agreement has been reached or signed. Would this MOU be considered a "contract" such that the commissioners and public would feel comfortable in going forward?

Since the concept has been to keep the units affordable in the future by limiting the resale to no more than 10% annualized gain, will this formula assure perpetual affordability? 10% is higher than historical gains and would result in a doubling of price in 7 years - a rate much higher than wages and salaries are increasing.

Because of all the unanswered questions, the failure to follow the process and because of the incompatibility with low density single family land uses next to the proposal, the abutting neighborhoods, nearby neighborhoods and the Coalition of City Neighborhood Associations are all opposed to this proposal. Save Our Sarasota also opposes the project for these same reasons.

We recommend that the commission deny the current proposal and ask the developer to work with the neighborhood to find a reasonable compromise that is compatible. The developer should also publish all the information concerning affordable housing aspects of this proposal so the citizens can evaluate the benefit to the public. Then the community can move forward together.

The commission will hold a hearing on this proposal Thursday September 14 at 6PM.

Monday, September 11, 2006

National AIA Urges Recision of Rudolph Building Demolition

The Board of the The American Institute of Architects, urges the Sarasota County School Board to rescind their vote to demolish the historic Rudolph building on the Riverview campus.

The resolution says in part:

American Institute of Architects Board of Directors, representing its 76,000 plus members, request that the Sarasota County School Board rescind its previous vote to demolish the original Paul Rudolph Riverview High School buildings and direct their architects to make a thorough and accurate evaluation of rehabilitating the historic buildings and incorporating them into the new school design.

We sincerely hope the School Board takes note of this national effort and reviews their decision to demolish the Rudolph building.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Meeting of Interest

Wednesday Sept. 27

What: Florida-Friendly Landscaping
When: 10-11 a.m.
Where: Twin Lakes Park, Building 1 meeting room, 6700 Clark Road, Sarasota

Description: Annemarie Post, Florida Yards and Neighborhoods program coordinator, will discuss the pressure placed on our natural resources as our communities have grown. She will also show how residents can play an important role in minimizing the potential harmful effects of urbanization on our natural resources through adapting environmentally friendly landscape practices.

Contact for public: For more information contact the Sarasota County Call Center at 941-861-5000 and ask about Florida-Friendly Landscaping at Twin Lakes Park.

County Urban Forestry Work

Upcoming Urban Forestry work:

Sarasota County’s Division of Urban Forestry will start work Sept. 11 to restore or replace some of the plantings in the median of Tuttle Avenue between Bee Ridge Road and Myrtle Street.

Temporary lane closures will be required periodically during the project. Signs, barricades and flagmen will be present as needed to ensure that vehicles and pedestrians can move about safely. Motorists should use caution while traveling through the area.

The work will include replacing trees and palms that are in decline, or no longer practical for median plantings, said Urban Forestry Manager Demetra McBride.

"The original median planting dates back to 1997, when Washingtonia palms had popular appeal," McBride said. "Our new generation of foresters and arborists now look for a combination of beauty, biology and suitability. The growth habit (extreme height and ‘telephone-pole appearance’) and maintenance needs of Washingtonias make them less than desirable as an urban aesthetic feature, especially in medians.”

She added that the tall palms are a problem in high winds.

In addition, the median has lost oak trees to traffic accidents, and a large number of the crape myrtles have declined.

"These trees will never recover, and the Washingtonias will become an increasingly incompatible and costly element," McBride said. "The project will restore Tuttle to a visually-pleasing and viable thoroughfare."

The installation of cabbage palms (native sabal), replacement oaks and a superior variety of crape myrtles will be complete by around the end of October.

For more information about the Tuttle Avenue median work, contact the Sarasota County Call Center at 941-861-5000 and ask for Urban Forestry.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Downtown Density Bonus Proposal Turned Down

The proposed Attainable Housing Density Bonus was turned down last night at City Hall. Too little "bang for the buck" and too many traffic issues were the determining factors.

Kate Lowman (Laurel Park) summarized the decision:

I am happy to report that last night the City Commission decided not to pursue the 4X density bonus because "it doesn't provide enough bang for the buck." Lou Anne Palmer and Fredd Atkins were already on record as opposing the density increase/10% affordable housing plan. Mary Anne Servian joined them last night, stating that she was very disappointed that the density bonus would yield so little in the way of affordable housing. It appeared that Commissioners Shelin and Bilyeu would have supported the density bonus, but no formal vote was taken at this point--the consensus established by the three votes against the program was sufficient.

Neighborhoods had a strong turnout. Strangely, the developers who had heavily promoted the program earlier in the year were almost completely absent. Neighborhood reps and Commissioners alike agreed that the city should pursue a comprehensive approach to affordable housing.

Thanks to those of you who came, and get ready for next Thursday's School Avenue hearing, which is even more important for neighborhoods. More on that later.

It was apparent that the community was opposed to this particular proposal at this time.

We hope the community works together to find ways to achieve affordable housing objectives. We also hope the commission continues to listen to the citizens of Sarasota.

It is important to note that on Saturday, September 16, the city and the CHT are sponsoring an "Affordable Housing Forum". This discussion forum will be looking for community imput. We urge everyone to attend and participate.

The Forum will be at City Hall and goes from 8:30 AM to 1 PM.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Attack Ad Contributors - Undermining the Political Process for Personal Gain

Following is the list of contributors to the "Citizens for a Better Sarasota", the political organization that sponsored the last minute attack ads aimed at Joe Barbetta. As we noted earlier, these ads painted Barbetta's record as pro-developer, which is opposite of his beliefs and record. All of the contributors are connected to the development industry.

A total of $87,800 in contributions was reported and one expenditure of $70,000 was recorded for "TV air time."

In the list, the name of the individual that either gave the money or heads the corporation that was listed as giving the money is given. In some cases, the individual works for the company (attorney) or is a director for the company. All the information came from the "CBS Campaign Treasurers Report" and public information. It is believed to be accurate.

The CBS organization apparently was "fronted" by two Sarasota teachers as a way of hiding the contributors until after the election. See the story in todays SHT.

This is a "case study" of how political action committes work to deliver a message - mostly negative attack ads - without being required to disclose who is paying for it. This case, being local, was fairly easy to track. When money is funneled through several PACs are more difficult to track.

The reported contribution from Donald McDonough originated from a PAC controlled by Mike Bennett and Ron Reagan, both strong supporters if the development interests. A check written to CBS was sent to McDonough's address but was not recorded as such in these records. Instead a contribution from McDonough was recorded.

Attack ads by special interest groups, that remain anonymous until after the elections, undermines our political process. It allows malicious distortions to be presented as "fact" and it discourages honest, open citizens from considering running for elected office.

The list:
Anthoney Abate, Attorney
Abel Band

Brian Turner
Florida Premier Turf

Charles Githler

Charles H Wilson
Charles H Wilson Construction

Charles Nebec
Vision Homes of SW Florida

Christian Van Hise, Attorney
Abel Band

David Bustard
JDCK Operations

David Sessions
Willis A Smith Construction

Donald E Murphy
D E Murphy Constructors

Donald McDonough
Wm F McDonough Plumbing

Donald Powers
Rusty Plumbing

Dr Mark Kaufmann

Fred M Starling
Fred M Starling, Inc

Frederick M Derr
Frederick Derr and Co

H R Foxworthy
Suncoast Bancorp (Director)

Jay Turner
LBJ Ranch

Jeffrey S Russell, Attorney
Abel Band

John Cox
Half Acre Construction

Jon F Swift
Jon F Swift, Inc

Katherine Carr, Attorney
Abel Band

Michael Moulton

Piero Rivolta
Lancaster Development

Piero Rivolta
M&R Sarasota Development

Piero Rivolta
Parkway Collectors Extra

Piero Rivolta
Rivolta Yachts

Richard Turner
RET Montana

Robert Flanders
Quality Walls Enterprises

Robert Soran
Marina Jack

Ronald Shenkin
Hunters Creek of Sarasota

Stanley Mueser
First America Bank (Director)

Tom Dabney
Beneva Retail

Tom Dabney
Gulf Coast Property Services

Tom Dabney
University Retail

Walter Mills
W G Mills

William Dooley
Dooley Mack

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Joe Barbetta Wins Tight Race

The growth management candidate, Joe Barbetta, won a very close race to become Sarasota County's newest commissioner. Barbetta had 18,885 votes. Casey Pilon finished second with 18,169 and John Lewis finished third with 16,075 votes.

Nora Patterson was re-elected to her seat as commissioner as she ran unopposed.

Many Save Our Sarasota members supported Barbetta's bid for this seat because of his long Planning Board record showing consistent support for managed growth and opposition to moving the urban service boundary further east. He is a strong proponent of infill and redevelopment instead of sprawl. These are principles that Save Our Sarasota believes are important for our quality of life.

This election is likely to have significant impact on the growth in Sarasota County in the years to come.

Barbetta was the target of attack ads during the last two weeks of the election. These ads were sponsored by members of the development and construction business. The message in the ads was that Barbetta was supported by developers and that he voted against establishing "villages" (part of the 2050 Plan to reduce sprawl) thus painting him as being part of the "development problem" in Sarasota. The twisting of Barbetta's record in an attempt to paint him as pro-development was an unusual tactic by the development special interests. It likely had some effect on the vote totals.

Information has recently become available showing individuals that contributed to this attack ad effort. We will publish the list in a day or two.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

SOS Opposes the Proposed Quadrupal Density Bonus Plan

City Commission Meeting
Thursday, September 7, at 6 PM
City Hall

This Thursday the City Commissioners will vote on a density bonus plan that will dramatically increase allowable densities in the bayfront, downtown and some neighborhoods in exchange for the developer providing 10% of the units in a price range affordable to those making 60-120% of median household income ($33,500 - $67,100).

The 10% requirement for affordable units is a low figure relative to other areas throughout the country. Further, the city's consultant had no successful model on which to base this plan.

In the bayfront and downtown, densities would quadruple from 50 units per acre to 200 units. In some neighborhoods, the increase would be from 25 to 50 units.It is important that citizens understand the ramifications this increased intensity of development will have on our traffic, water and sewer systems, environment and on our quality of life.

The city Planning Board voted 5 - 0 to reject this plan. As one Board member said, "There isn't enough bang for the buck." A summary of their lively deliberations can be viewed on SOS's blog.

However, the City Commission voted in April to take the next steps toward implementation and will have a final public hearing and vote on Thursday evening.

Affordable housing must be one of our city's and county's highest priorities. We support all well-conceived plans to achieve this goal. The current density bonus plan does not qualify for this support. We strongly urge you to attend the Commission meeting on September 7th at 6:00 PM in the City Commission chambers to participate in this important discussion.

SOS Steering Committee

Monday, September 04, 2006

Picnic in the (Payne) Park

The Picnic in the Park event, spearheaded by the Alta Vista and Terrace Gardens neighborhood associations was wildly successful - even under threatening skies.

The groundbreaking ceremony that signaled the beginning of the transformation of the Payne Park "Trailer Camp" site into the signature city park was well attended. Estimates from the organizers were at 1000 people.

The event was free - over 1000 hot dogs were served up, many gallons of ice cream and popcorn, soda, cookies, brownies, and veggies rounded out the picnic fare.

The crowd was very diverse, with multiple ages, ethnicities, and areas of the county well represented by the families that enjoyed the happening. Many politicians showed up to talk with real people - candidates in races for judge, county commissioner, school board, congress, state legislature all shook hands, smiled and passed out stickers and literature.

Commissioners and dignitaries mucked around in the dirt, Kelly Kirshner, president of the Alta Vista Neighborhood Association, spoke about how much this park will mean to the city and the nearby neighborhoods, bands played for listeners and dancers, raffle prizes were won, kids threw frisbees and had their faces painted .

A movie was shown and the party ended - for now. There was much talk about repeating the event next year when real progress is expected to be seen at the park site.