The Observer Happy Labor Day!
BUSINESS: IF YOU BUILD IT
Oscar Parsons dreams big. Page 1C
Teens for Wishes
Silver Lining Ball benefits other teens. PAGE 1B
You. Your neighbors. Your neighborhood.
OUR TOWN PEOPLE, PLACES AND PICS
Vol. 28, No. 5 Four sections www.longboatobserver.com
Women’s fishing school pulls in almost 40 anglers. Thursday, august 31, 2006
Key Club withdraws offer ing. The Key Club’s New York principal, Loeb Partners Realty, made the final decision to withdraw the offer, said Michael Welly, general manager of the
Key Club. Asked why the investment company withdrew the contract, Welly said, “We couldn’t make the financials work at the time.” “Loeb has strict guidelines for obtaining property, and this didn’t quite make it,” Welly said. In June, the Longboat Key Club entered a contract with Longboat Key Marina Associations LTD, led by managing partner Bill Vernon. Once finalized, the purchase
would bring the marina back into the ownership of the Key Club, which owned the marina in the mid-1980s, before its current owner purchased the marina for $9.1 million in 1989. The purchase would have included a parcel of commercial property and 37 boat slips. The commercial property included the Café on the Bay restaurant, a yacht brokerage, fuels station
See MOORINGS page 5A
+ Second time’s a charm
Black Tie . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1B Bridge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4D Key Real Estate . . . . . . . . . 4C Classifieds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6D Community calendar . . . . 16A Cops Corner . . . . . . . . . . . . 8A Crossword . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4D Opinion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6A Player of the Week . . . . . . 15C Weather . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3D Golf Gambits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12C
no sale by Roger Drouin | City Editor
The Longboat Key Club last week withdrew its offer to purchase a parcel of bayfront property including portions of the Longboat Key Moorings and nearby Café on the Bay build-
See OUR TOWN page 2A
Longboat Key Club financing firm Loeb Partners opts out of property purchase; club Manager Michael Welly still considers future purchase.
The cotton plant at Casa Del Mar, grown by D.M. Williams and Mark Meador, is one step closer to officially becoming the world’s tallest cotton plant. On Aug. 23, Ervin Shannon, an agricultural assistant with Manatee County, documented the plant to be 27.1 feet tall, which surpasses the old world record by about 1 1/2 feet. Another cotton plant grown on the Casa Del Mar property holds that record. Two letters will be sent to the “Guinness Book of World Records,” one from Gail Loefgren, president of the Longboat Key, Lido Key, St. Armands Key Chamber of Commerce, and one from the state agriculturist office, verifying the plant’s height. Loefgren was on hand for the measuring of the plant and became an official “cotton-picker,” when she joined the Tall Cotton Picker Association by plucking a bole of cotton from the plant.
Eddie Moran momentarily comes off his skimboard as he does a move in his heat of the Skimboard Bash competition on Bradenton Beach Saturday. To his right, Ben Val Divieso completes one of his rides. About 90 competitors signed up for the event, with proceeds going to red-tide research.
ERNESTO by Roger Drouin | City Editor
Spared, but staying prepared Town officials breathe a sign of relief and urge residents to have storm plans ready for the next storm. Early Monday morning, Longboat Key faced a familiar situation: A tropical storm, expected to become a hurricane, was headed
for Southwest Florida and everyone was watching to see where it would make landfall. Then at 11:30 a.m., as the lat-
est prediction from the National Hurricane Center showed Tropical Storm Ernesto shifting direction, setting course for the southeastern tip of Florida, Longboat Key town officials called off a pending meeting to determine if, and when, to order an evacuation. As of press time Tuesday af-
ternoon, forecasters predicted minimum rainfall and no impact from winds on Longboat Key. “We expected a little bit of rain, but according to the current forecast, we are not going to get any rain, and we are outside the wind
See ERNESTO page 5A
2A Our town
The Longboat Observer THURSDAY, August 31, 2006
+ Generous gift
OUR TOWN continued from page 1A
Longboater Neil V. Moody made a $100,000 donation to The Sarasota County Arts Council for its endowment. This is the first endowment gift in the history of the 20-year-old organization. “I am thrilled to be able to do this and hope other people will follow,” said Moody, an Arts Council board member since 2005. Moody is currently a member of the Sarasota YMCA Foundation Board and was
+ Flocking to him
Kyle Griffin, 2 1/2, shares his beach with a flock of seagulls Aug. 20. Kyle is
previously a board member of the Sarasota Community Foundation and St. Stephens Episcopal School. He also served as president of the Florida West Coast Symphony.
+ Gator aid
Amy Poag, Memphis, Tenn., visited Longboat Key last week, as she often does. But she got a surprise bon voyage when she saw an alligator on the golf course of the Longboat Key Club on her way out of town.
Neil V. Moody “We’d always been told there were no gators on Longboat Key,” she said. “We’ll think twice now about fishing golf balls out of the water.”
the grandson of Longboat author and resident Terry Griffin. Kyle was visiting from Casselbury. He is the son of Mike and Judy Griffin.
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The Longboat Observer THURSDAY, August 31, 2006
Fish round-up by Roger Drouin and Jessica Luck
| City Editor and Staff Writer
Clean-up crews race against red tide The town’s seven-day-a-week operation aims to keep beaches clear as red tide intensifies. “Look,” Kevin Webb, Public Works supervisor, said Friday afternoon as he drove near the Gulfside beach. He pointed to the trails of dead fish lying near the shore. “We’ve already been here, and they’re coming back,” he said. “They’ve washed up since we cleaned this morning.” Public works employees, along with temporary staff, were working 12-hour days beginning Aug. 24 and into early this week to rid the beaches and waterways of dead fish as a result of red tide. By Monday, they had removed 16 tons of dead fish. Crews also removed weeds and litter such as glass bottles from the beach. Crews used a tractor and beach tiller to remove fish from the Gulf-side portion of the island. In addition, the town hired a contractor to remove dead fish from the bay. “This is nothing compared to last year,”
Webb said. So far, the main fish found washed up on shore have been bait fish, such as trout, mullet, some catfish and eels. “I saw a red snapper on Thursday,” Webb said. “It’s a pretty fish. It’s such a shame.” Grubbs Emergency Services LLC used a vessel called a harvester to scoop dead fish from bay waters near New Pass. The hyacinth harvester is actually designed to remove weeds from lakes, but Grubbs uses the machine to clear away dead fish killed by red tide. “We are working seven days a week,” Webb said. “It got worse this weekend.” Last year, when a lingering bloom killed thousands of fish along both the Gulf of Mexico and Sarasota Bay surrounding the island, the town spent a total of $380,340 to remove dead fish. Webb said the town is removing the worst cases of dead fish first.
INBRIEF COMMUNITY NEWS AND NOTES
+ Turtle death
Public works crews discovered a dead loggerhead sea turtle on Longboat Key Monday. The turtle was found on the beach near The Sanctuary on the south end of the Key. While scientists at Mote Marine Laboratory would not know the exact cause of death for several days, they suspected that red tide was involved. Last year during a lingering red tide bloom, the toxic algae contributed to the death of nine sea turtles on Longboat Key. Jessica Luck
Anthony Ruic, with Able Body Labor, works to clear the Gulfside beach of dead fish and debris on Friday afternoon.
“It’s a never-ending thing,” Webb said. “It’s kind of a gamble with how many crews you should get. You learn from past experiences what’s coming. You have to watch it.”
+ Underground power lines
Several months ago, the Town Commission buried the idea of underground power lines. The project would have cost $12 million to $15 million and the Town Commission decided it was too costly. But recent projects throughout Florida have inspired some commissioners to resurface the issue. At its October or November workshop, the commission will discuss whether to pay for an in-depth analysis to determine the possible price range to bury power lines on the Key.
+ No watering changes
The Kiwanis Club of Longboat Key awarded 16 scholarships to area students Aug. 24 at the The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort. The club raised $17,000 for the students and hosted a reception for all who could attend at The Colony’s Monkey Room. “This year was by far the most difficult undertaking to choose among the applications that I ever experienced,” Vince DeLisi, a Kiwanis member, said. “But it was an awesome chore.” Scholarship recipients are: Valerie Atkins, Roberta Rodgers, Ashley Betti, Brenda Whitehair, Nicholas Matthews, Cristina Robles, Iwona Townsend, Melana Morris, Tara Spielman and Marlene Jurgensen. Not pictured are: Renee Boyette, Cristina Calandruccio, Michael Hurst, Andrea McRae, Jacquelyn Shephard and Raymond Sanders.
+ Labor Day
Traffic by Roger Drouin | City Editor
$3.7 billion shortfall threatens road projects Roadway projects throughout Sarasota and Manatee counties are needed to alleviate traffic congestion. A series of roadway projects in the Manatee-Sarasota region is estimated to cost $5 billion by 2030. These projects are necessary to alleviate congestion on traffic-clogged roads, described as “red” roadways. The problem is that a decline in state funding has triggered a $3.7 billion shortfall, said Mike Maholtz, transportation planner with the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization. “We only have $1.3 billion in projected revenue,” he said. Maholtz told Longboat Key Kiwanis members at their weekly meeting Aug. 17 that as MPO officials wait for funding to trickle in, more people move to the area, adding to the volume of traffic on the roadways. Maholtz said that by 2030, MPO officials estimate that 520,000 residents will live in Sarasota County and 473,000
residents will live in Manatee County. The estimates are low, because North Port is expected to double earlier estimates by 80,000 residents. “We have a lot of red roads in the highway system,” Maholtz said about roads such as Fruitville, U.S. 301 and U.S. 41 — roads that are not managed by the state. “This problem will not go away. We just have to find the best way to manage it.” Maholtz points to three reasons for the $3.7 billion shortfall. Local gas-tax revenue is the single greatest funding source used to pay for local transportation projects. The share of gas-tax money coming back to the MPO from the state government has decreased recently. “By the time the gas tax goes to Tallahassee and comes back, we are getting anywhere from 50
Newly enacted watering restrictions throughout Sarasota County will not impact Longboat Key residents. “Longboat Key is going to keep its own watering schedule,” said Public Works Director Juan Florensa. “Our citizens know on which days they can water, and we don’t want to change that.” Earlier this month, Sarasota County changed the irrigation water restrictions to allow only one day, not two days, for watering. Longboat Key residents will continue to follow the watering schedule: Odd addresses water on Sunday and even addresses on Tuesday. Times to water on the allowed irrigation day are from midnight to 10 a.m. or 4 p.m. to midnight.
cents to 82 cents (per dollar) at best,” Maholtz said. “We get a lot less back than we pay in gasoline taxes.” In addition, the state contributes an annual amount of money for local road projects. That funding source has also decreased in recent years, shrinking from $12 million to $5 million. And, to add to the problem, the state removed a U.S. 301 road-widening project from its schedule of priority projects to receive state funding. Local-transportation planners also have to deal with skyrocketing increases in the cost of construction materials and right-ofway property purchases. “The cost of asphalt and concrete and the cost of right-ofway (property purchases) is remarkable,” Maholtz told Kiwanis members. “Recently we have had cost increases that leave everyone speechless.” For instance, to widen a onemile stretch of Bee Ridge Road,
would cost an estimated $25 million for right-of-way easements, he said. Last month, MPO Chairman Larry Bustle sent a letter to Gov. Jeb Bush and state representatives, requesting additional state funding for slated road improvement projects. The letter, sent July 5, highlights 13 slated projects in Sarasota County that will cost a balance of $518 million. If funding is not increased, it will take 97 years to fund these projects. In Manatee County, there are five projects that are estimated to cost $258 million. It would take 43 years to funds these projects, if state assistance is not increased. The projects listed in the letter include only those that are waiting on the MPO’s Project Priority List and Long Range Transportation Plan. None of the listed projects is planned for construction on Longboat Key or neighboring barrier islands.
For the Labor Day weekend, Town Hall, including the building department and public works office will be closed Monday, but re-open on Tuesday. The Longboat branch of the United States Postal Service will also be closed on Monday. Garbage pickup normally scheduled for Monday, Sept. 4, will be Saturday, Sept. 2.
numbers in the news
16 — tons of dead fish re-
moved from Longboat Key’s beaches and bay waters, as of Monday.
$17,000 — amount awarded to 16 area college students in from of scholarship funded by the Longboat Key Kiwanis Club. 3.7 — shortfall (in billions) for roadway projects planned in Manatee-Sarasota through 2030.
The Longboat Observer THURSDAY, August 31, 2006
Vol. 27, No. 11
BIRDS OF A FEATHER
You. Your Neighbors. Your Neighborhood. The Longboat Observer was founded in July 1978 by Ralph and Claire Hunter and daughter Janet in a one-room office with two typewriters. Since then, and through today, The Longboat Observer has served as the leading source of community and neighborhood news and information for Longboat Key, St. Armands Key, Lido Key, Lido Shores and Bird Key. In March 1995, the Hunters sold The Longboat Observer to the families of David and Ruth Beliles and Matt and Lisa Walsh. And they have kept up and built on the tradition of providing the most comprehensive coverage of news, people and events on Longboat and surrounding keys. Throughout the year, The Longboat Observer averages 18,000 net circulation, the highest penetration on Longboat Key of any print medium in the market. History of the Longboat: Since The Lonboat Observer’s founding, the newspaper has used a rendering of a “longboat” as one of its identifying symbols. According to historical accounts, when Juan Anasco, scout for Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto, anchored off the coast of Longboat Key in 1538, Anasco and his crew used “longboats” to get through the pass from the Gulf of Mexico to Sarasota Bay.
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Hundreds of seagulls flocked to Coquina Beach and Beer Can Island last Thursday afternoon awaiting an impending storm that threatened to roll in.
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The Longboat Observer THURSDAY, August 31, 2006
MOORINGS continued from page 1A
ERNESTO continued from page 1A
and swimming pool. Private owners own the 270 boat slips as part of a condominium system, and these slips were not included in the contract. Stuart Scheyer, former board member of the Moorings Condominium Association and owner of two slips for more than 10 years, described the following contract: The Longboat Key Club offered $9 million for the commercial property and the 37 boat slips. The contract was signed by both parties, and the Key Club withdrew its offer days before the expiration of the due-diligence period. Scheyer, who led an effort by the condominium association to stop the deal under the association’s power of first right of refusal, said that a group of slip owners were ready to finance the $9 million purchase price to bring the property into the ownership of the condominium association. He resigned as treasurer of the board after the board voted 5-1 against buying the property. Scheyer was concerned that the Key Club had entered the contract without satisfy-
swath,” said Susan Ammons, public information officer for Longboat Key. “It’s a huge change from yesterday morning,” Ammons said Tuesday afternoon. Miami-Dade area was expected to get up to 7 inches of rain and 60-plus mph winds. Fire Chief Julius Halas, Police Chief Al Hogle and Town Manager Bruce St. Denis continued to closely follow the storm until they knew for sure that the eye of the storm would once again miss Longboat. St. Denis said that, considering past storm patterns, Longboat Key has had its share of good luck. He has a theory
ing a list of agreements that the condominium board requested. Welly said that a possible right of refusal from the board association did not cause the Key Club to withdraw its offer. “We were led to believe there was a group of slip owners who had plans to purchase the property,” Welly said. “But in the end, that wasn’t the reason we withdrew the contract.” Welly said that he plans to continue to talk with Vernon to keep the possibility of a future deal alive. “It’s not done,” he said. “Bill (Vernon) and I will continue to talk until we come up with some scenario that will work.” Welly’s goal is to join the Longboat Key Club and the marina, something that he and Vernon began discussing two years ago. Scheyer also said there is still interest among owners to buy the property, but that the board is back at “square one.” In the meantime, Dennis Matthews, general manager at Longboat Key Moorings, said it would be business as usual at the marina.
CAFÉ ON THE BAY MOVES Café on the Bay at the Moorings will be closing on Labor Day and re-opening at its new location in the former Maureen’s Palm Grille in the Centre Shops mid-September. “Progress is coming along very, very well,” said General Manager Ken Parsons of the new venue’s construction. The restaurant is leaving its location at Longboat Key Moorings, where the owner could not offer a
long-term lease because the property was under contract. The Centre Shops location will feature a “larger parking lot, larger restaurant, larger outdoor terrace and brand new interior, from floor up,” said Parsons. The restaurant and its elegant food won’t be the only attraction. “The bar is going to be the hot spot on the Key, if not all of Sarasota,” Parsons said.
about this history of near misses. He said that climate and conditions in the Gulf of Mexico make it difficult for a hurricane to make a direct hit on Longboat Key. “Hurricanes want to move north, northwest,” he said. Unless a cold front moves down and forces the storm to move eastward into Southwest Florida, as happened during Hurricane Charley, the storm will continue north toward the Panhandle. Cold fronts can also push storms east across the Keys or into Southeast Florida. A moving hurricane has to encounter very specific weather conditions in order for it to make landfall near Longboat Key, he said.
CONSTANT READINESS Town officials barely breathed a sign of relief this week before they were back in readiness mode — a constant state during hurricane season. “You always have to be ready,” said Halas. The following tips can help residents get ready for any future storms: • Have a plan ready. “Prepare in every way,” said St. Denis. “Know what you are going to do so you don’t have to do it last minute.” St. Denis said an important part of any hurricane plan is securing homes. This includes protecting windows with plywood or storm shutters and securing outdoor furniture. • Get ready for evacuation. St. Denis suggests having a dry storage container with copies of insurance policies, homeowner information, valuables and photos and other items that residents would want to take with them. Residents need to be sure to bring a long-term supply of their medications with them. • Remember to bring pet-care items
such as proper identification, immunization records, ample supply of food and water, carrier, medications and leash. • Safely secure boats. If there is enough advanced warming, moving boats out of the water and out of the storm’s path is the best possible way to avoid damage, said Glen Sandridge, vice president at MarineMax. When possible, store boats out of the water on land or on a lift to protect them from dangerous storm surges. If the boat is on a lift, tether the bow and stern to the lift itself so that high water will not float it off the lift. Placing an anchor from the boat on the lift to nearby land can also be effective in the event the lift becomes damaged. Remove all canvas and boat covers, which can, damage the boat during excessive winds. When docked, double or triple-line boats, allowing them to move with the water but keeping them tight enough to prevent the vessel from slamming against stationary poles and docks. This is traditionally the cause of most boat damage.
THE LONGBOAT OBSERVER
THURSDAY, AUGUST 31, 2006
our view “If we are to build a better world, we must remember that the guiding principle is this — a policy of freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy.” Friedrich Hayek “Road to Serfdom,” 1944
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Ed Smith site: Sell it, don’t tax
It could be much, much worse. We could be the hapless taxpayers of New York City. A week ago, this was the headline and first paragraph of a story in the New York Times:
Work begins on Yankees’ subsidized stadium
“Declaring the start of a new era for the Yankees and for the Bronx, officials broke ground yesterday on a $1.2 billion project to build a 51,000-seat replacement stadium. The ceremony took place as throngs of police officers cordoned off protesters who oppose the project because it will eliminate most of two parks and require $400 million in public subsidies.”
being used for, they’ll have to give even more to the city. The bigger point is this: What is the other side of the stadium coin? Better yet: What do commissioners think would happen if that $48 million were left in the hands of taxpayers? We guarantee they wouldn’t choose a business enterprise that will generate $810,000 a year in operating losses. But that’s exactly what city and county commissioners are doing. Again, their own Powerpoint presentation shows the new stadium will require an operating subsidy on top of the annual debt payments to pay off the construction bonds! Another consideration: the proposed increase in the tourism bed tax, from 3% to 4%. Many people think: big deal. The tourists won’t care. And if you’re going to have a tax, the best tax is one that taxes the guy who doesn’t have a say. Tourists, of course, aren’t oblivious. They avoid taxes as much as the next guy, and they live on budgets. The more you take from them in taxes, the less they spend on entertainment. Beyond the tourists, commissioners might think about the effects of the increased tourist tax on the cost of housing. This is not a stretch. If the bed tax is increased 33% on Longboat Key condos rented out during the season, the owners are not going to absorb that tax. They’re going to pass it on. That higher cost then gets factored into the price of units when they are sold and when they are appraised. While you may say a $40-a-month increase in the bed tax on a $4,000-amonth condo is not much, it still nudges the cost of housing upward for everyone — not just the tourists. So if the city and county commissioners analyzed this scheme with more sense and less emotion, they should be able to conclude that the losers in this deal with far outnumber the winners. But they want a stadium. And they can have one. But they should put virtually all of the cost and all of the risk on the private sector. For starters, consider selling some or all of the land — with restrictions on developers for recreational uses. The city shows every year it doesn’t know how to
THE OBSERVER’S RECOMMENDATIONS Governor — Republican: Charlie Crist; Democrat: no candidate U.S. Senate — Republican: Katherine Harris U.S. Congress DistricT 13 — Republican: no recommendation; Democrat: no recommendation Florida Chief Financial Officer — Republican: Randy Johnson ATTORNEY GENERAL — Democrat: no recommendation Florida House District 69 — Republican: Laura Benson 12th Circuit Court Judges — Group 13: Lee Haworth Group 16: Donna Padar Berlin Group 21: Rochelle Taylor Curley Manatee County Commission, District 6 — Dr. Craig A. Trigueiro Manatee School Board — District 1 — David Bailey District 3 — Steven Cecil District 4 — James Ferguson District 5 — Walter Miller Sarasota CountYCommission, District 2 — Casey Pilon Sarasota School Board — District 1: Tammy St. Mary District 2 — Larry Helmuth District 4 — Carol Williams District 5: No recommendation Sarasota Hospital Board — District Seat 1: Lyn Cassan District Seat 2: Alexandra Miller
It’s nothing like that here. For one, Sarasota city and Sarasota County elected officials are talking about soaking taxpayers for only $48 million to build a new stadium for the Cincinnati Reds and “a community recreation facility” near the existing Ed Smith Stadium complex. That’s nothing like subsidizing George Steinbrenner, one of the wealthiest men in America, and one of the most overpaid sports teams in baseball. But even if it’s $48 million or $400 million or $48, the subsidy is not justified. Indeed, rather than accept the course the city and county are on as a fait accompli, it would be a pleasant, if not stunning, turn of events if the 10 city and county commissioners would give this stadium deal some serious thought — as opposed to what they’ve done so far. They’ve swallowed the stadium advocates’ and economic development gurus’ cheap, re-used bait, hook and all. Enough already with the bogus estimates of the economic impact of the Reds on Sarasota’s economy. For crimeiny sakes, they’re here for one month! Big deal. Or could it have been any more operate a profit-making stadium, so the embarrassing for Sarasota city taxpaycity shouldn’t be in the stadium-operaters? Rather than at least appear to be ing business. Take a cue from others: impartial and deliberative at the public The late Joe Robbie built a $100 million hearings, the commissioners sat in their facility after local voters told him no to high-backed chairs wearing “red” shirts? tax subsidies. Jack Kent Cooke spent What was the point of the pub$160 million or so on a new lic hearings? Their minds are stadium for the Washington made up: Saddle the taxpayers AT A GLANCE: NEW SARASOTA STADIUM Redskins. Jerry Richardson with another tax load that benfinanced a $164 million staefits the few at the expense of CONSTRUCTION COST FINANCING dium for the Carolina Panthers. the many. Bond issue $47.8 William Davidson, owner of Sure, it’s a point of civic Hardening facility grant $1.2 the Detroit Pistons basketball pride to have a gleaming new Furniture, fixtures (Cin. Reds) $1.0 team, paid for the $70 million sports stadium. It makes Furniture, fixtures (Concessionaire) $1.0 Palace project. people feel good — that they Naming rights (Cin. Reds) $0.9 If not selling the property, live in a progressive, with-it Reds’ additional contribution $2.1 perhaps consider leasing the place. But if city and county Total $54.01 land and facilities on terms that commissioners really evaluated make sense for the city and lesthe stadium proposition, they SOURCES OF DEBT PAYMENT see, the way states are leasing might consider such thoughts (present value, $ in millions) their highways to private-sector as these: State ($500,000 / yr. for 30 years) $6.88 operators. Creative thinking • If that $48 million of taxCounty bed tax (½ of 1% bed tax over 20 years) $17.6 could produce a development payer money were not spent Cincinnati Reds ($248,000 / yr., increased by $5.0 scenario in which taxpayers on a sports stadium, for what 3% / year over 30 years and private-sector operators would it be used? What are City of Sarasota ($720,980 annual debt service) $8.98 can win — without subsidies. the alternatives? Would that City of Sarasota (From city’s debt-service reserve) $5.0 There’s a minor-league baseball money produce better results? Land leases $9.64 owner in Fort Lauderdale, for Take the state’s contribution Total 53.1 instance, who is looking for —$500,000 a year. Do you opportunities to own and operthink it’s at all possible that STRUCTURE OF CITY BONDS ate small-scale stadia. He sees money could generate more • City pledges ½-cent state sales tax as revenue such facilities as potentially productive results than what it stream to pay debt service on bonds profit-making ventures. will in a stadium? • $4.2 million is annual debt service At the least, before they cast Or how about the city’s • $720,980 is city’s share of annual debt service that the final votes, city and county annual $720,980 that will go must be made up to cover current general fund commissioners should give toward annual debt service? expenses. alternatives more thought and The city’s own Powerpoint consideration — for the sake presentation said that money PROPOSED CITY INVESTMENT of the people whose money “must be made up to cover cur Current Proposed commissioners want to spend. rent general fund expenses.” Annual debt service $805,000 $720,980 While new baseball stadiums In other words, if you give city Annual operating costs $437,445 $809,850 and spring training games money to one group, you are Required capital improvement* $0 $400,000 generate nostalgia and civic taking it away from another. Total annual subsidy $1,242,445 $1,930,830 pride, they’re not the economic And taxpayers still want whatengines that promoters claim. ever service that $720,980 was
Don’t Forget to Vote Election Day, Sept. 5
The Longboat Observer THURSDAY, August 31, 2006
News/ Opinion 7A
VISIONING OUTLOOK by Roger Drouin and Jessica Luck | City Editor and Staff Writer
Escalating property taxes worry residents Longboat Key residents wonder how much their rates will continue to go up and how that will affect the town’s future. Editor’s Note: This is the sixth article in a series on Longboat Key’s visioning process. This week focuses on rising property taxes. In the visioning small-focus groups held earlier this year, Longboat Key residents expressed concern about escalating property taxes, which have been on the rise for the past five years. Although non-homesteaded homeowners (part-time residents) and businesses are the heaviest hit, full-time residents as well are feeling the effects of rising property values, rising insurance rates and subsequent rising taxes. “It was identified as an issue of concern,” said Herb Marlowe, consultant with Arrington-Marlowe, the consulting firm helping to shape Longboat Key’s visioning process. But the rising rates are nothing new. “This is a constant thing,” said Longboat Key Mayor Joan Webster. “The big concern is the way counties are so free to raise millage and tax people.” The Longboat Key Town
Commission will meet Sept. 11 to set its final millage rate for this year. Manatee and Sarasota County TRIM notices were issued Aug. 14. Residents and business owners have until Sept. 8 to file a review with the property appraiser. Don Schroder, president of C.A.R.T., Coalition Against Runaway Taxes and president of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, said one problem with the TRIM notices is that they are based on Dec. 31 tax evaluations and not up-to-date property vales. “That was long before there was a slide in the real estate,” Schroder said. “But we’re stuck with that.” Currently, C.A.R.T. is working on a two-pronged approach to rising taxes. The organization is working with Manatee County to finalize the county’s position on tax deferment for working waterfront hotels and motels. Also, C.A.R.T. is working with a legislative representative in Florida to try and cement tax-assessment laws. Save Our Homes, the tax assessment law put in place in 1992, states that Florida caps annual property tax assess-
ments at 3%. But Schroder says the problem with that is there is no escalation clause to account for inflation. That flat rate is shifting the burden to non-homesteaded residents and business owners to compensate for an increase.
Impact on business “The interesting thing from a Longboat Key perspective is that the commission is now looking at how to re-energize businesses on Longboat Key,” Schroder said. “They realize it has flipped too far.” Winnie Nelon, member of H.A.R.T., Home Owners Against Runaway Taxation and a part-time Longboat Key resident, said businesses could start to suffer even more, and not just from having to pay higher property taxes. “The local governments have seriously underestimated that non-homesteaded residents spend a lot of money when we are in Florida,” Nelon said. “If we have less money after paying higher property taxes, then there is less money to spend at local businesses. For every tax dollar we pay, businesses will have one less dollar of income.”
Pushing for reform The majority of Longboat Key residents, about 70%, are paying property taxes well
above a 3% increase. Nelon says the key issue surrounding that is that non-homesteaded residents don’t get to vote for county commissioners and, more importantly, don’t get a real voice in helping to make the decisions about the budget and rising tax rates that mainly affect them. She is flying down from Massachusetts to attend the Sept. 11 commission meeting; other non-resident owners will be attending the meeting as well. “Somebody’s got to jump into the fray face to face,” she said. “Our fundamental issue is that we have blatant taxation without representation.”
Possible solutions One solution is for a cap to be put on property-tax rates for everyone, not just full-time Florida residents. Nelon said it doesn’t have to be 3%, but any number between 6% and 10% would be reasonable. Nelon said that Kuaia, Hawaii, is one jurisdiction that has recently restructured property tax structures that cap property tax increases for all owners, with two different increase caps for residents and nonresidents. “A slight disparity would be fine,” Nelon said. “We don’t mind paying a little bit more.” The catch of that solution would be that communities
would have to readjust their budgets for the loss of income. But, even now, residents have questioned what the town of Longboat gets in return from the counties for its tax dollars. “The question raised during the focus groups was, ‘What services is the town getting (from the counties) for the tax money?’ and the reality is very little,” Marlowe said. Longboat Key commissioners are well aware of residents’ concerns and are constantly lobbying for the town to see some return on the many tax dollars it puts into both Sarasota and Manatee counties, especially in their school systems. “We get so little tax money back in terms of services,” Webster said. She pointed out that Longboat Key is independent in terms of services such as police and fire protection, as well as taking care of its own roads, but she would like to see more money in order to help fund things such as land acquisition for future beach renourishments and updating the town’s recreation center. “When we meet with other commissions, I always bring up, ‘How does this affect Longboat Key?’ Webster says. “We remind them of how much money Longboat Key is contributing to them. It’s a fairness thing in my mind.”
MY VIEW by Shirley Fein | Guest Writer
Labor Day holiday belongs to kids, too When President Grover Cleveland signed the bill in 1894 creating Labor Day as a national holiday to honor all working people, I wonder if he knew about all the farm children who could and would claim this as their holiday as well. My brothers and I did! We were part of the workforce on our family farm and we always felt that a Labor Day celebration belonged to us as much as it did to all the grownups.
Summer on the far There was a great deal of work to do on the farm all year long. Summer was the busiest time and everyone was assigned a job. No one sat around wondering what to do. We kids helped put the hay into the cavernous hayloft in the cow barn. We watched as the men cut fields of corn, then my brothers would help put the stalks into the old hay truck. Dad would drive the truck up the hill to the silos where the corn would be chopped into silage and stored and used to feed the cows during the long, cold Connecticut winter. After supper we would help to paint the summer farm equipment and store it for the winter in the dilapidated garage near the woodshed. My brothers would disappear into the woods behind
our old drafty farmhouse and gather logs that they would split into firewood for Mom’s antediluvian wood-burning kitchen stove. I still marvel at my mother’s ability to create delicious meals and baked goods on that ancient relic. I can still hear my father saying, “Feed the cats and dogs, take care of the chickens and help your mother.” Our lives whirled around a never-ending list of jobs. As much outdoor work as possible had to be completed by Labor Day, the first Monday in September, when our summer would officially be over and a new school year would begin the next day. In the house we were canning fruits and vegetables to use as part of our meals during the wintertime. We cleaned the kitchen cabinets and put oilcloth on the shelves. We scrubbed the old-fashioned food pantry until our arms ached. Most of the summer clothes were washed, ironed and packed away for the next year. The boxes of winter clothes were brought down from the attic, aired out and then hung up in the freshly painted closets.
Three-day celebration In our area, Labor Day was a three-day celebration that
began on Saturday with the 4-H Club competitions at the local fairgrounds, continued through Sunday’s fun and games and ended on Labor Day Monday with a colorful and noisy parade followed by a gigantic fireworks display. On Saturday night just prior to the square dancing, the judges would announce the winners of the 4-H competitions. I still remember what fun it was to count my blue ribbons that I won for my canning, sewing and pickling projects. My older brother always won first prize for his pet bull-calf, George, whom he trained to walk on a leash. He spent many hours grooming George. He polished the calf ’s hoofs with soft steelwool pads soaked in a soapy solution and then would brush the animal’s brown and white coat until it was shiny and soft to the touch. The local newspaper always printed a list of winners of the 4-H competitions. Mom would put all those articles on the wooden door of the old icebox with a thumbtack for everyone to see and admire. Following the Saturday night 4-H awards ceremony, there was a potluck supper and a lovely square dance at the Grange Hall. On Sunday there were horseshoe games, picnics and the traditional horse-pulling contests.
The big parade We could hardly wait for Labor Day Monday, the day of the big parade and even though we were a small town, enough people turned out to create a fantastic show. All the retail stores and all the fabric mills were closed. Everyone celebrated together. While the grownups visited with each other and had political discussions, trying to cure the ills of the world, my brothers and I played with our school friends and everyone enjoyed the holiday for what it was originally intended: to honor all American workers. One year my father put my three brothers and me in the back of his red pickup truck and we rode in the parade with the police car, the fire truck, high-school marching band and an array of young children on their bicycles. Some people even rode their horses in the parade. The horses were decorated with colorful blankets and had fresh flowers in the harnesses near their ears. All the spectators that knew us shouted, “Sam, don’t let the kids fall out of the back of the truck!” We waved and felt so grand.
Time for school After the Monday parade and the fireworks display con-
cluded, we knew that this great weekend was over. Tomorrow we kids would all be back in school carrying our Mickey Mouse lunchboxes that Grandma had ordered from the Sears Roebuck catalogue. It was also time to move on to the winter farm chores that would be waiting for us each day when we would come home from school. We would feed the chickens, collect the eggs and my brothers would also help with the milking. Somehow we found the time to complete our school homework, and for me, practice piano as well. Labor Day weekend, with all its wondrous and exciting activities reinforced our roles in being an important part of the farm labor group. On this special weekend, we were given credit and public recognition for all our hard work. We were living proof that through our work on the farm we were linked to all the other farm children across the United States and to the entire American work force as well. This was definitely our special holiday. Yes, Labor Day belonged to all of us, both young and old alike! Shirley Fein is a Longboat Key resident. She regularly contributes travel columns to The Longboat Observer.
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10:38 a.m. — Longboat Key Police Department. Assist other Agency. Man reports, by law, to police headquarters to advise that that he is a registered sex offender and will be visiting Longboat Key. Police take information and advise man to notify Manatee County Police Department as well. 10:34 p.m. — 400 block of Gulf of Mexico Drive (GMD). Suspicious Person. Officer approaches a red Chevrolet pickup truck parked in a lot with a man sleeping inside. The out-of-state man did not have a valid license and was transported to a shelter to sleep.
6:56 p.m. — Bradenton Beach. Assist Other Agency. Officer arrives after call to assist with a stolen vehicle recovery. Bradenton Beach police officer has subjects on the ground and Longboat officer assists in securing them in handcuffs. A second officer also arrives with additional handcuffs because there were not enough to go around.
4:53 p.m. — 4000 block GMD. Suspicious person. While driving through Bayfront Park Recreation Center parking lot, officer observes man crossing GMD to bus stop across the street. Officer questions subject, who was completely dry after a heavy rain had recently fallen. Subject says he has been in the park reading for the past several hours. A criminal check reveals subject has prior arrests for theft and burglary. With park building secure, no further action is taken.
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10:13 a.m. — 5500 block GMD. Camping. Officer arrives to discover a female in park in a small tent. Subject states she set up her tent because she did not notice any
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5:25 p.m. — 4200 block GMD. Suspicious Circumstance. Officer receives call from woman walking the beach with regard to a “Help me” plea she saw written in the sand. Officer arrives, checks scene and observes that inside the letters, a female’s name, address and room number are visible. Officer goes to address, discovers 11-old-girl, in no distress, along with family members.. Girl says she always writes her name in the sand. Officer educates girl on the possible dangers of providing this information and that she should not call for help unless there really is danger. signs posted to the contrary. Officer determines subject is indigent and transports woman and her tent to New Pass Bridge area. 1:48 p.m. — 2100 block GMD. Disturbance/Civil. Police respond to resident having problem with a moving
The Longboat Observer THURSDAY, August 31, 2006
company. Driver advises that he will not offload womanâ€™s property until cash is paid and woman only has credit card. Officer assists woman in obtaining cash from ATM and setting up balance to be paid with Western Union.
7:16 a.m. â€” 4100 block GMD. Traffic/Violation. Officer observes a white Honda traveling 52 mph in a 45-mph zone. Car is stopped and driver does not have a valid license. Driver check reveals subject has previously been arrested three times for driving without a license. Officer supplies subject with fourth arrest and orders vehicle towed.
9:29 a.m. â€” 5100 block GMD. Assistance. Complainant advises that her father, suffering from Alzheimerâ€™s disease, left in her vehicle, telling her he was heading for Virginia. Officer observes vehicle and initiates traffic stop, in which subject agrees to return to daughterâ€™s condo. Officer returns man home. 10:41 a.m. â€” 3700 block GMD. Larceny/from Vehicle. Officer takes report of stolen cell phone taken from LBK Ad for LBO 8/25/06 4:50 officer PM Page 1 maintenance golf cart. Complex manager calls
phone-service carrier to report missing phone and finds out that $377.51 in ring tones, pictures, games and airtime has been charged to the phone. Cell phone number is canceled. 4:07 p.m. â€” 6100 block Gulf of Mexico Drive. Traffic/Violation. Officer pulls over a Chevy truck with an obscured registration decal. Officer approaches driver and notices an open can of beer. Subject advises officer that he did consume some beer in his truck after leaving work. Subject is issued a citation for possessing an open container of alcohol in a vehicle. 4:23 p.m. â€” 5400 block GMD. Property/Found. Complainant finds a walkie-talkie on the side of the road. Attempts to contact someone on the unit were unsuccessful. Radio was collected by officer and filed. 11:10 p.m. â€” 500 block Spanish Drive. Traffic/Violation. Officer observes vehicle with three juveniles driving inside condominium complex. Juveniles say they are lost. While supplying directions, officer notices tampedout smoking material sitting in the door handle. Vehicle search produces four plastic bags containing traces of cannabis. Officer contacts adult in care of the juveniles and they are sent home to deal with dad. Substances are disposed.