Off Key

| October 1, 2015

By Bob Frederickson

From Lists We’d Sooner Miss to Hillary’s Shopping Bliss

Some of Our Favorite (and Least Favorite) Lists

Our area routinely makes the cut for many national lists.

Top Beaches…Top Retirement Destinations…Most Livable Cities…Top Towns for Unattended Turn Signal Usage… and my personal tongue-in-cheek favorite, Top Places to Drive Your Vehicle into a Large Body of Water…

But the latest – like the last two mentioned above  – is yet another example of one we’d just as soon be left off of: Top Places for Scammers Looking for Easy Marks.

According to a recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report, the Sarasota Manatee region ranks 17th nationally for fraud complaints. Area residents filed 3830 complaints, which works out to 523 per 100,000 residents.

And the FTC went on to say that 37 percent of those filing complaints locally actually lost money, with an average ding of $2,104.

Yikes! It’s enough to make you want to make an unscheduled left-hand turn out of the Van Wezel parking lot straight into Sarasota Bay (turn signal optional, of course).

                                                                   

 

County to Ban Puppies?

You just have to love the recent Herald Tribune Headline: “County Could Ban Puppy Sales.” Oh the humanity…No more puppies in Sarasota!?!

But seriously, is there no area of human endeavor these folks don’t feel compelled to insinuate themselves into?

 

                                                                   

City to Park Taxi Regulations as Uber Gets Green light

Meanwhile, in the city of Sarasota, observers were stunned to hear commissioners actually propose rolling back regulations for taxis and limousines instead of extending them to cover ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. What’s next? The return of The Depot and with it the actual sound of live music downtown under the stars along the streets of Sarasota?

 

                                                                     

Fahrvergnugen Redux?

Did you hear how Volkswagen got busted by the EPA for its alleged sneaky approach to meeting (circumventing?) emissions standards? The company is said to have included source code in the computers of some of its models that senses when emission controls are being tested, fully activating them, only to shut them down again later when the software determines the test has been completed.

Reading about the deception reminded me of the Fahrvergnugen ad campaign the company ran a while back. The tag line was “Fahrvergnugen: It’s What Makes Driving Fun.”

You’ve got to hand it to those Germans…they seem to have a colorful word for everything. Perhaps their new slogan should be “Shadenfreude: Bringing you Pleasure Through our Misfortune.”

 

                                                                     

On Hillary’s Shopping List…

            Remember the opening sequence for the old Mission Impossible television series? Peter Graves would listen to a tape recorder giving instructions for his undercover team’s next assignment and when the message finished playing, ‘poof!’ both recorder and tape would self-destruct leaving no evidence of the planned operation. Well, word from technology analyst David White has it that engineers at Xerox PARC have invented a chip that accomplishes the same thing for hard drives and other memory storage devices.

Upon hearing news of the new device, Hillary took on the demeanor of Ralphie in “A Christmas Story” as he pressed his face up against the storefront window displaying the ‘Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-Shot Range Model’ BB gun he prized above all else.

 

                                                                    

Charity an Easy Call When it’s on Someone Else’s Dime

In a recent column, Tom Lyons tells the story of a minor accident involving 86-year-old Ethel Mays and a Sarasota police officer driving a city owned patrol car. The accident turned out to be the officer’s fault, and no one was hurt, both good things for Mays. But unfortunately, the cost to repair her well-maintained model year 2000 Ford Taurus was greater than its book value. So holding onto the vehicle she had hoped would be her last meant Mays would have to dig into her own pocket to cover the cost of repairs over and above the amount of the settlement check the City’s insurance carrier was obligated to write. It’s not an uncommon problem with older vehicles. In fact my mother-in-law recently dealt with the same issue when she was rear-ended by a distracted young driver paying more attention to her cell phone than to the rapidly closing distance between her vehicle and my mother-in-law’s.

Buy Lyons surprised me when he mentioned that – although with some misgivings – he passed along a suggestion from a reader that the city pick up the difference, which amounted to almost $2,500. And guess what? City Manager Tom Barwin apparently agrees. So Mays may end up getting her vehicle repaired without suffering a financial hit to her limited financial resources…again, a good thing for her.

Still, though I risk coming off like a miserly curmudgeon, I can’t help myself from pointing out that charity is easy when it involves someone else’s money. And though $2,500 isn’t going to bust the city’s budget, the underlying attitude that allows for this ‘solution’ explains how a routine $11 million sewer lift station can end up costing $35 million (and counting) and how a new $7 million city parking garage jumps to $12.5 million.

Shouldn’t there be a solution other than falling back on the currently popular axiom that it is a primary responsibility of government to assure good outcomes in all cases rather than adhering to the now quaint notion that citizen tax dollars be spent wisely and in a manner that supports the broad public interest, not the narrow ones of a few?

When I first moved to Sarasota, Ken Thompson was still City Manager…a position he held for 37 years. Admittedly, it was a different time. So much has changed. But I suspect Thompson would have never considered bending the public trust into a pretzel in order to rescue one individual from the type of misfortune that all of us face at one time or another. What he would have done is work behind the scenes to help Mays out. He might have called some body shops around town looking for a sympathetic owner willing to do the necessary repair work at a reduced rate; he might have called on friends and members of the chamber of commerce to donate to the cause of helping out someone in need. I have no doubt Mays would have been helped.

But Thompson and those of his ilk would never have considered going down the slippery slope of picking winners and losers with taxpayer money.

Like I said, it was a different time.

                                                              

Quote of the Day

“Live Every Day in an Attitude of Gratitude…” -Larry Pesavento, Technical Analyst, Publisher of Fibonacci 24/7.

 

                                                              

 

Category: Columns

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