Off Key

| March 1, 2016

By Bob Frederickson

From High-Rent Retail to the Fine Art of Understatement

Buyer’s Remorse at UTC Mall?

The lure of the shiny new UTC Mall proved to be just too enticing for Jackie Zumba to resist. So the owner of Jackie Z. Style Company left her downtown Sarasota location behind in late 2014 and made the move east to the brand spanking new $310 million mall east of town.

Gone would be worries about ample parking for her fashion boutique customers. Forgotten, the growing problem of an increasing homeless population aggressively hitting up those customers for handouts…
Retail nirvana with easy access to I-75…

But for Zumba, only one thing turned out to be missing: customers. According to a report in the Herald Tribune, the young entrepreneur cited a ‘lack of foot traffic and sales’ for her decision to pack up her inventory and move out of the joint Benderson/Taubaum developed property this past October.

In response, mall management filed suit early this year against Zumba seeking damages of $1.52 million. The suit listed the terms of Zumba’s original agreement, which reportedly included $105,000 per year in rent and $54,000 in shared common area charges for a period of seven years. That comes to $13,250 per month for the roughly 2000 square feet of retail space Zumba had occupied. Yikes!

By that measure, perhaps the parking and homeless problems downtown aren’t so bad after all…

Thank You Sir, May I Have Another?

Speaking of panhandling downtown, the activity is no longer a crime in the City of Sarasota. Caving to pressure from the ACLU in the misguided hope of heading off additional lawsuits (and perhaps settling one already underway) city commissioners have adopted a strategy any eight year-old who has ever faced a bully on the playground knows is doomed to certain failure: namely, trying to placate the loser by giving in to whatever ridiculous demands they make of you.

Bumper Sticker of the Day:

Guns Cause Violence Like Spoons Cause Obesity…

Could I get some Fries with my Gator?

Joshua James, 23, wanted to play a prank on a friend working the night shift at a Wendy’s restaurant near his home in Palm Beach County. His bright idea? Throw a live, three-foot long alligator through the drive through window.

“He’s a prankster,” his mom said. “He thinks stuff like this is funny.” The friend, other restaurant employees and especially the cops didn’t see the humor. James was booked on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The gator was released to a nearby canal (…with quite the ‘tale’ to tell one would suppose). Only in Florida…

A Different Kind of Parking Problem Downtown

A rash of car burglaries so far this year has added a new dimension to the parking woes downtown. Just finding a spot used to be the goal, now it’s finding a parking spot and returning later to finding your car hasn’t been broken into.

Bernie and the Billionaires

The top three finishers in the Republican primary in New Hampshire were the three candidates who spent the least money. So much for the argument that candidates are able to buy votes and corrupt the political system in the process. Those railing against the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court a few years back consistently underestimate the good sense of the average citizen to see through false, misleading arguments or disingenuous politicians no matter how much money is aligned behind them, a lesson Hillary also learned in New Hampshire, but which will likely remain forever lost on socialist candidate Bernie Sanders, who has actually surpassed Hillary in fundraising efforts in recent weeks (…how Bourgeoisie!)

Death of the Death Penalty?

New guidelines under consideration by the Florida legislature could mean a drastic reduction in the number of inmates on Florida’s death row. A simple majority among jurors in a death penalty case is all that is currently required to sentence a defendant to death. But proposed changes could require a unanimous decision moving forward. Now if that was the case in the past, consider some of the well-known lowlifes who would still be with us. The list includes the smooth talking and charming serial killer Ted Bundy, as well as the somewhat less dashing, but no less cold blooded killer Danny Rolling.

A Lesson in Understatement

After 11 of Manatee County’s schools received Ds and another eight scored Fs on the district’s latest state report card, Deputy Superintendent Cynthia Saunders, had this to say…“We have some room for improvement.” Ya think?

Meantime, An Overdue Assignment in Sarasota

Meanwhile, the Sarasota County School district maintained its high academic rating with the state, but failed its requirement that all district employees undergo background checks every five years. According to the latest state auditor’s general report, 45 of 80 audited employees had not undergone the required five-year background check. The district’s “the dog ate my homework excuse?” Not enough money. This despite citizen approved referendums that have consistently provided the district with a level of funding that is the envy of virtually every other school district in the state.

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Category: Columns

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