Off Key

| August 1, 2015

From Natural Selection to a Repeat Election…
By Robert Frederickson

Darwin’s on 4th Lands on Extinction List

Another downtown Sarasota business has succumbed to the political whims of natural selection that currently favor the rights of the homeless over those of business owners trying to make an honest living.   

Owner Darwin Santa Maria has been quoted by several media outlets as saying that the growing number of homeless folks milling about the restaurant’s Rosemary District neighborhood has scared off potential patrons, making the eatery’s continued operation at that location economically unfeasible.

In an ironic twist, Santa Maria had actually hired many of the homeless to staff the place early on; but any good karma he accrued by doing so couldn’t offset the simple reality that in most cases folks out for a meal and a drink simply don’t want or expect to deal with the vexing issue of homelessness as part of their dining experience.

So what will happen to the property now? Well, perhaps some enterprising local restaurateur with a big heart (and deep pockets) will adopt the quixotic business approach rock ‘n roller Jon Bon Jovi employs at his Soul Kitchen Community Restaurant in Red Bank, New Jersey. Here, there are no prices on the menu. Customers donate to pay for their meal and if unable to pay, do volunteer work instead.

As a business model, the idea may be lacking, but as a way to address the homeless issue by involving the community and providing on-the-job training for those individuals looking to get back on their feet, it’s an intriguing concept, one in keeping with the vision embraced by the city’s ‘former’ consultant on homelessness, Robert Marbut, who espouses the philosophy of giving the homeless a hand up, not a hand out.

If the city of Sarasota can afford to subsidize Marina Jacks with a sweetheart lease deal and build parking garages for developers who haven’t even begun their promised developments, why can’t it at least consider ponying up a few shillings on a proactive approach to the homeless problem that hangs like an albatross around this community’s neck?

I suspect much of the opposition to approaches like Bon Jovi’s or Marbut’s for a come-as-you-are shelter centers on the perception that they somehow ‘reward’ the homeless and would therefore attract even more of them to the area. But in fact, if implemented correctly, these strategies would do just the opposite, by incentivizing individuals who want to improve their lot and offering ‘rewards’ for efforts to get off the streets. As for those wanting the rewards but not willing to work toward them by meeting benchmarks established to allow continued access to a shelter or work program and thus avoid incarceration for sleeping on the street (which is now seemingly off the table because of legal/fairness concerns that should no longer be a valid argument with a community sponsored pathway out-of-homelessness in place) well, those individuals would likely move on if no longer able to game the system to their advantage and pursue their ‘lifestyle choice’ of living freely and without restriction on the street. The perceived ‘hassles’ and other rigors of a city sponsored plan would likely drive away this minority of the homeless population that just wants to be left alone to pursue their own free style approach to life.

It would at the same time deter new homeless arrivals seeking out a community with a reputation for a ‘soft-machine’ when it comes to homelessness (like Sarasota currently enjoys) as word spreads that living on the street is no longer recognized here as a valid, plausible lifestyle choice by the stakeholder’s involved…merchants, citizens and homeless alike.

 

§§§

 

 

City Settles with BP over Gulf Oil Spill

In other city news, the Sarasota City Commission voted recently to settle with British Petroleum (BP) for $3.2 million over the company’s 2010 Deep Water Horizon explosion and subsequent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

So what plans does the commission have for the windfall? Well, it could be used to cover perhaps ten minutes worth of construction on the city’s own ongoing environmental disaster, the lift station 87 project, scheduled for completion sometime in the next millennium. Or perhaps another roundabout could be added to Main Street, or yet another parking garage to help downtown merchants.

But if the city really wants to help merchants and bolster visits to downtown, why not use this ‘found’ money on the critical issue of homelessness as discussed above?

The successful implementation of a genuine policy to help the homeless get off the street (and discourage those who see it as a plausible lifestyle decision) would do more to improve the lot of the city’s merchants, down-on-their-luck homeless individuals and ordinary citizens than any empty parking garage ever will.

 

§§§

 

 

Perspective on Oil Spill…

So just how much oil was spilled by BP in 2010? Visualize Jerry Jones’ cavernous Cowboy Stadium near Dallas. Now picture a 24-ounce can of beer in the middle of the giant Cowboy star at midfield. Can you see it? Probably not. According to the folks at CNBC, if the stadium were filled with seawater to represent the Gulf of Mexico that can of beer would represent by volume the amount of oil spilled.

Now no one is suggesting that oil gushing into the gulf is a good thing, but given the breathless media reports at the time, many probably thought the equation was reversed…that the can was the gulf and the stadium represented the amount of oil spilled.

There are countless fissures in the ocean floor that release oil into the oceans 24/7…without end. But that’s not hammered home on the news every night.

Remember Ted Danson of Cheers fame predicting back in the late 1980s that the oceans would be dead (and conceivably us along with them) within a decade?

Get a grip!

          When dealing with the news (and anyone with an axe to grind) it’s important to remember that what’s left out is sometimes more important than what is put in.

 

§§§

 

Woman’s Exchange to hold Annual Sale

Need some gently used furnishings, books, clothing or other items? Downtown’s Woman’s Exchange will hold its big annual August sale on Friday and Saturday August 7-8.

If you haven’t been by recently, you owe it to yourself to rediscover this local treasure that Lara Spencer, formerly of PBS’s Antiques Roadshow and currently a host on Good Morning America calls “one of her favorite places to shop” in her recent best seller, “I brake for Yard Sales.

 

§§§

 

Snooty turns 67

The best part of Snooty the manatee’s annual birthday celebration? Hearing grown men and women say the name “Snooty.”

 

§§§

 

Turtle Watch Volunteer Shot by “Turtle Hater?”

Speaking of Snooty, he’d be mortified by this next item. According to AP reports, a 72 year-old volunteer checking turtle nests near Lauderdale by the Sea was allegedly shot in the leg recently by a man who witnesses say said he “disliked sea turtles” beforehand.

Apparently he’s not too fond of humans either…

But wait, there’s more to the story. The gun actually belonged to the volunteer who reportedly drew it after he was allegedly assaulted by the guy with the turtle grudge who then tried to wrestle it away from the eventual shooting victim, with it going off during the struggle.

I don’t know what’s stranger about this story: that someone could hate turtles so much that they would confront an individual trying to protect them or that someone would be so devoted to them that they would feel it necessary to take a gun along with them on their mission of mercy.

 

§§§

 

Headline of the Day

After his latest incendiary comment questioning Senator John McCain’s seemingly unassailable status as a war hero, The New York Post featured a picture of Donald Trump in a tiny rowboat under the headline “DON VOYAGE!”

The Donald remains unrepentant, however (at least up until our press deadline), saying he will remain in the race for the Republican Presidential nomination, despite calls from many that he drop out.

But Republicans might want to consider parallels to the 1992 general election before they alienate Trump any further.

It’s already shaping up as a Clinton/Bush contest just as it was in ’92. But the piece of the puzzle that Trump could add that would complete the similarity to that year’s election is a third party candidacy a la Ross Perot that would almost certainly clinch a Clinton victory.

 

§§§

 

 

 

 

Category: Columns

Comments are closed.