By Bob Frederickson
From Seeking Shelter in Sarasota to Scaring the Wildlife on Passage Key
Requiem for a Homeless Shelter?
Support evaporated on the city commission last month for consultant Robert Marbut’s recommendation that a come-as-you-are shelter be built near downtown as a means of addressing the city’s growing homeless problem.
Marbut’s plan is still being considered by the county, but without the city’s support it will be difficult to gain a consensus as to where to place any such facility, which according to Marbut, should be near the resources used and needed most by the homeless (most of which are clustered around downtown Sarasota).
Some have maintained that the driving force behind the city’s efforts to address the issue of homelessness has from the start been less about actually dealing with the root causes and more about maintaining a tidy, tourist friendly facade for the city, one marred by the constant presence of those pesky homeless folks wandering around town, panhandling and generally making a nuisance of themselves. Supporters of the Marbut plan counter that even if the motivation is less than fully altruistic, it would still allow the police to deal with vagrancy in a non-criminal manner by taking offenders to the proposed shelter instead of to jail, where the cost to taxpayers is significantly greater and the prospect for a solution to the underlying causes of an individual’s homelessness is virtually nonexistent. The shelter would be part of a larger effort designed to provide incentives to help people overcome the circumstances that have led them to end up on the street in the first place, according to the outline of Marbut’s plan.
The debate reminds me of something I saw while taking a bike ride through the Celery Fields bird sanctuary east of town recently.
On Raymond Road, south of the sanctuary (named for the area’s former claim to fame as celery capital of the nation) utility companies have installed spikes to prevent birds from taking up residence on their poles. The clear message: “Keep moving…don’t even think about trying to roost here…” akin to the city’s long standing law enforcement approach to dealing with the homeless. But just a quarter mile away, along Palmer Boulevard, the main drag through the increasingly popular bird-watching park, instead of spikes, someone had the bright idea to build a higher perch on similar utility poles where birds can now land and even nest, above the sensitive electronic equipment down below…an alternative perch…and a creative approach to problem solving as well (one likely lost on city commissioners).
Speaking of Birds…
I’ve lived in the same neighborhood for over twenty-five years and have never had the occasion to observe a single peacock in my yard…until now. It seems one rather large example of the exotic Asian genus has adopted our subdivision as its new home and shows no sign of wanting to move on. Now that the initial curiosity and spectacle of it all has worn off, we’re left with the reality of a large, territorial creature making a mess of our patio, climbing on our vehicles with massive (read scratch producing) talons and the prospect of potential damage to the shingles on our roofs when the majestic creature seeks higher ground after being spooked by something down below. So my question to our readers is this: has anyone out there dealt with this type of ornithological annoyance, and if so, are there any tried and true (and humane) methods that can be offered to get this noble but ultimately wayward interloper to move along? If so, please send any suggestions my way, c/o the Siesta Sand.
Unfortunately, I don’t enjoy the luxury of being able to hire a consultant (whose expensive advice I can later ignore) to help me with this matter and provide political cover later if things don’t work out!
Sarasota Gets Sexy…
By now you’ve likely heard about the latest top ten list that puts Sarasota at the head of the class as “Sexiest Small City in America.” The list, compiled by the real estate web site Movoto, also includes Bradenton in its top five, which right there should make you pause as to its seriousness. But then again, Sarasota does have some things working in its favor here. For instance, what other city do you know of that has a naked guy as part of its official logo? For a while, the silhouette of Michelangelo’s David was even emblazoned on the side of the city’s police cruisers (much to the annoyance of some harder-nosed members of the force). Then there’s the famous Seward Johnson statue “Unconditional Surrender” on the city’s bay front. It attracts visitors by the scores who stop to have their pictures taken beneath the larger-than-life depiction of the famous throat probing smooch a sailor laid on a nurse in Times Square in 1945 as Japan’s surrender ending WW II was announced.
And don’t forget North Lido Beach. For generations it enjoyed worldwide fame (and still does, especially among Europeans) as a world-class nude beach (though unsanctioned). So it’s no surprise Sarasota would make the list. Still, I suspect the real motivation was simply a tight deadline and an editor’s impatient entreaty to the next writer up on the assignment list: “Quick, I need 200 words on the sexiest small cities in the USA…” (Yes, your suspicions are correct…that is still how it sometimes works in the world of modern journalism…).
Speaking of Showing a Little Skin…
Like North Lido Beach, Passage Key off the northern tip of Anna Maria Island has become a favored spot for those who prefer to do their sunbathing au naturale. The problem though is that all that bare skin is scaring away the native wildlife, especially the bird population, for whom the island was set aside in the first place over a hundred years ago. And so Federal wildlife officers have started posting signs on the island reminding the nudists who have adopted the key as their own that they are not the wildlife being encouraged to flock there. The signs warn visitors that trespassing on a protected federal wildlife refuge is a felony punishable by fines and even jail time. Ouch! That could sting worse than a sunburn where the sun doesn’t usually shine!
The Dog Ate my E-mails…
IRS manager Lois Lerner and her IRS minions have stretched credibility to the point of utter ridiculousness with their continued inability (unwillingness?) to produce subpoenaed email records concerning Lerner’s role in the alleged targeting of conservative leaning political groups legitimately seeking non-profit status. First the hard drive crashed on her desktop computer. Then the back-up service that administered the servers her e-mails would have been backed-up to was replaced with a new service provider, which conveniently made for a gap -surprise! – right at the time the records should have been backed up. Next we’ll hear her dog ate them.
The irony here is that if you or I were to use a similar set of excuses about a gap in the documentation related to our tax filings, we’d be ordered to immediately pay up or face the consequences. Period. End of story.