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Weighing in on Sarasota’s political dog and pony show

Folks I run into on the street and readers of this blog keep asking me why I haven’t weighed in on the raucous ranting and raving going on all over town about the question of having a so-called Boss Mayor.

I haven’t weighed in because, frankly, I’m a bit under-whelmed with the brouhaha.

I mean, c’mon. Don’t we have bigger fish to fry right now?

I’m amazed at the endless lines of printed word (paper and online) being given over to this subject at a time when our community is collapsing around us. I’d be a helluva lot more interested, not to mention, inspired, if our community was having this boxing match over something a little more critical to our current times — um, like feeding our hungry, keeping people in their homes, or finding jobs — any jobs — for the thousands out of work.

What would impress me, would be if this community cared a little less about having a mayor in a time of crisis down the road, and cared a little bit more about dealing with the crises — multiple that they are — that we’re facing immediately and dangerously, right here, right now, in real time.

I could give a rat’s rear end about the mayor situation during a time like this, when people are giving up their homes and living — sleeping — in their offices, taking showers at the Y, dumping their family pets on the roadsides, going without breakfast, putting their kids to bed without dinner, losing their homes, losing their cars.

Geez. If as much hot wind as is being expectorated by so many on the subject of a weak or strong mayor, was channeled into meaningful energy about pulling our less fortunate citizens up by our collective bootstraps, then that might be something to get all excited about.

Whatever happens with the mayoral vote, our community is dying by degrees. How about editorials about the real state of crisis we’re confronting? How about email campaigns about what to do for the woman I heard about yesterday who has had her car repossessed and is trying to figure out how she can get to her job thirteen miles from her house and not a bus stop in sight for about half of them? How about cute little signage peppering our streets every other house encouraging us to turn around, drive to a store or shelter and buy a meal for someone hungry? How about an engaged debate about what to do with all the empty, atrophying homes and yards and the people leaving our city in droves?

Sarasota has a habit of focusing on little things that don’t matter that much in the here and now, and ignoring the big things that will make or break the lives of its citizens and the viability of its city for years to come.

Strong mayor, weak mayor … yada, yada, yada … it’s not going to matter much if there’s nothing — and no one — left in this city to be mayor over.

Posted on March 5th, 2009Comments RSS Feed
8 Responses to Weighing in on Sarasota’s political dog and pony show
  1. John W. Perkins
    March 5, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    A strong elected Mayor may just be able to effectivley address these issues on a local level of which you are so concerned about.

    Why don’t you run ?

    I’d vote for you. Twice.

    Imagine, you would be the first elected lovely mayor of Sarasota.

  2. yeah, i have two votes already! i wanna be may-uh! 😉

  3. John W. Perkins
    March 5, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    Now, why don’t you want to be mayor ? Lord knows you’re opinionated enough..

  4. no i said, i WANT to be may-uh! t’would be fun! plus i hear they make $50k a year; that’s some cake! enough for cat AND bird food! 😉

  5. Stan Zimmerman
    March 5, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    MC: Think of this as the last gasp of the old self-chosen elite. An elected-mayor life preserver to all the folks sinking in deep water because of the indulgence of build-it-now-anywhere policies. If you believe neighborhoods are important in the City of Sarasota, you can do great damage to them by voting for this thrice-rejected proposal.

    It’s a camel’s nose in our tent, just the beginning of the destruction of our city-manager form of government. This elected mayor will “help prepare” the city budget, for example. As an old poly sci prof once said, “No budget, no policy.” Another power of this “weak” mayor is the ability to cull prospective city managers down to two – “my guy and the bozo.”

    Proponents of this measure never mention – never – the expansion of the city commission to seven from five. Yes, a quarter-million extra per year to accommodate them. More importantly, it upsets the cautious balance between money and neighborhoods. Go look who’s putting money into this charter-change campaign. Then ask yourself it that’s who you want to guide our city’s future. It’s a very us-or-them vote. If you take the time to educate yourself.

    I count five slick mailers at $10K apiece in my mailbox for the elected mayor campaign. Big money wants you to believe an “elected mayor” will cure all your ills. Friends, your ills are only beginning if you drink this snake oil. Too much vodka? You’ll wake up in the morning. Too much snake oil? You’ll be selling apples on Main Street, and happy to do so. And so will your kids. Protect your future. Vote “HELL NO!” on this treacherous and disingenuous elected mayor charter change. s/Stan Zimmerman

  6. Thanks for reading the blog and for posting a comment, Mr. Z! I read, with great interest your recent column about the subject and in fact, discussed it this morning with not one, but several people, who all described it as “great.” I appreciate you “weighing in” with further thoughts here. MC

  7. Hi Mary Catherine,

    Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, when he was a professor at Harvard, was credited with saying that the reason that the infighting in academia was so intense was because there was so little to fight about. (One of the few times I would agree with him.) Sounds like you might have something similar going on in your town. Can’t tackle the really big issues, so we’ll go with the small ones. Nevertheless, deciding on one’s form of government, especially in a democracy, should never be taken at a quick glance. That form of government will determine how the City responds to the issues that matter.

  8. Excellent point, Howard. Thanks for commenting. I agree — form of government is critical and should not be taken at a quick glance. Unfortunately, that’s what’s happening here in SRQ. The proposal for a strong(er) mayor was hastily and I feel, fractiously, put together without involving people from across the aisle — racially, politically, socio-economically, and intellectually. I actually support the idea of a strong mayor for our city here, but not under the present, poorly constructed offering. I would vote no for this issue at present and hope that it could be more satisfactorily and inclusively reconsidered and re-presented.

    Thanks for weighing in!


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