Open Letter: What can be learned from the Special Election
March 9, 2022
While fresh in mind, here's one voter’s view of the takeaway from the March 8 Special Election:
Elections are -- or can be -- teachable moments. Yesterday's result can help you understand what's driving the people of Sarasota to change our electoral relationship to the Board. It has nothing whatsoever to do with party affiliation or business interests, but a great deal to do with what we all experience in living here: Growth.
You brought this change upon yourselves -- thanks to years of privileging private property over public good. No one is saying, "halt growth." The aim is to bring back the public dimension -- which looks at the health, safety, and welfare of the people as a key determinant of the quality of developments -- especially those that put intense pressures of density upon neighborhoods, schools, roads, and taxes.
Yes, you think your magico-legal power to enhance the value of land yields greater tax income -- but where is the external, reliable analysis that shows that "mobility" fees (ironic name, given our traffic) fairly and adequately pay the developer's share of future services, roads, and increased population? The Tischler Report of 2000 showed the opposite is true.
You have become distant from the people because you are willfully enabling Sarasota to grow too fast, without the rigorous guidance and temperance of an overall plan. You have shredded the Comp Plan, and now have warmly accepted Mr. Jensen's offer to write a new chapter of it for you.
What can be learned from your special election (expected to cost taxpayers $315,000) is that you have walled yourselves inside a vision of your jobs that leaves out what most matters to the people whose votes entrusted you to look out for everyone.
To us, the land of Sarasota County is not merely a commodity to parcel up, rezone, and profit from. It is the entire natural and social realm in which we dwell.
It's time to ask how you can reconceive your roles, your jobs, your access and accountability to your districts. To make yourselves available for town hall meetings, scientific understanding of climate change, and to all the considerations that accompany your stewardship role.
Until you stop pretending we were confused; until you stop believing that slick, dark-money-funded messaging will turn the trick; until you each take a hard look at your approach to civic duty, you have not begun to accept or implement the changes required by Single Member District Voting.
It's time to open your minds and hearts to a different vision with grace and good will, and to work with the people of Sarasota as a government, of, by, and for those people.