Highlights of December 4 & 5 Sarasota City Commission Meeting
Commissioner Arroyo and Trice led the selection of a food and beverage entrepreneur to replace retiring property owner and community builder Dr. Mark Kauffman on the Downtown Improvement District board.
For the Historic Preservation Board, breaking from long-standing civic norms and practices, Commissioner Arroyo moved (and Commissioner Trice seconded) to replace a local architect who has worked on multiple “Sarasota School” projects and served on the board with distinction with an architect who recently relocated to Sarasota.
Change for change's sake is not good stewardship of Sarasota's built environment or its most valuable asset - its people. There is civic wisdom in Auld Lang Syne which should not be discarded without good reason.
On Tuesday, city officials held a commission-only workshop on the bar and nightclub zoning changes, reviewing use cases illustrating the ambiguities which had prompted the clarification of consumption-related activities.
Commissioner Battie, who began his public service by getting into a fight outside a bar, engaged in vigorous shadow-box oratory with caricatures he conjured of Sarasota's residents. Prioritizing the potential profits of bar owners over public safety, he argued that compromised quality of life and economic impacts on neighbors and other businesses were "the price you pay" for living in a city. Is it though? Sarasota’s city residents seem to be paying a higher price than residents of other urban areas in Florida, since Sarasota’s downtown crime rates exceed St. Petersburg, Miami, and Tampa.
Fortunately, after discussion led by Commissioner Ahearn-Koch and Commissioner Trice, the consensus direction of the commission seemed to be to retain the current conditional use review process to regulate bars. Nightclubs will be distinguished from bars and restaurants by operating hours and live entertainment. Much ambiguity remains about the concept of “outdoor bars” and their use parameters, which speaks volumes about the work ahead getting the definitions right in the zoning text amendments expected to come before the commission in January.
MAKING A LIST, CHECKING IT TWICE.
CityPAC launched its City Hall Monitor in April after a city commission meeting in which several of the current commissioners aggressively dismissed residents’ concerns about the commercial carnival held in St. Armands Circle park last holiday season. It was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back on prioritization of personal preferences and private profit over public service and proper process.
Published after each city commission meeting, the Sarasota City Hall Monitor newsletter synopsizes key city legislation and evaluates the leadership on 5 “C.A.R.E.S.” qualitative criteria (denoted with a sun or cloud icon) to give an at-a-glance gauge of:
Civility: demonstrating respect for the city charter and residents;
Accountability: reasoning from facts not anecdote or feelings;
Resident-friendly: focus on quality of life / livability for locals;
Engagement: understanding of issues, options, and consequences;
Stewardship: focus on safeguarding public safety and public assets.
See the archive for details, but 2023 sun sums and cloud counts are:
Sarasota deserves more sunshine and fewer clouds...
All three district seats - those currently held by Commissioners Alpert, Arroyo, and Battie - will be on the ballot in 2024. CityPAC believes we will see sunnier days with representation that prioritizes the people who live here. So we are approaching 2024 as a year-long “job search” to help interview and identify (via our endorsements) those we think can best serve the public interest.
The process we will be using to assess candidates is detailed on our website. One key criteria will be the willingness of the candidates to restore trust by forgoing donations from developers.
Will they take the pledge to put the public good over private profits? Find out by attending our candidate forum at the Selby Library on March 28.