Off Key

| October 1, 2016

By Bob Frederickson

From Parking Madness to Revenue ‘Enhancement’

Where Bad Ideas Never Die…

It’s said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. Which leads us to Sarasota’s city commissioners once again voting to move ahead with plans to install paid parking meters on downtown streets, despite their epic fail trying to accomplish the very same thing four years ago.

Maybe city leaders are simply looking for any incremental improvement this time around…like having the meters stay in place for more than just a few months before the public outcry results in their recall. Or maybe they’d be pleased with a waste of taxpayer money that’s less than the $450,000 loss suffered the last time out when the outfit that sold the city their latest and greatest ‘state of the art’ meters (you remember, the ones no one could figure out how to use) offered to buy them back for mere pennies on the dollar to offset the city’s half-million dollar ‘investment.’

Bad ideas in the private sector usually die a quick death, but in the bureaucratic echo-chamber of governmental bodies like the SCC, they’re like the energizer bunny…they go on, and on, and on….

Tell us Something We don’t Know…

According to the web site SmartAsset.com, the state with the nation’s worst drivers is…you guessed it, Florida. Hands down. Wonder what they’ll tell us next month? That it gets kinda warm in August?

Winning Friends and Influencing People

It was called Project Mulligan and the idea was to lure the corporate headquarters of a large national roofing company to Sarasota County with the incentive of $500,000 in tax breaks. In return, 180 good paying jobs would bolster the local economy.

But local roofing company owners quickly cried foul, complaining that they had built their businesses without similar incentives, so why should their tax dollars be used to subsidize a competing business that they suggested would steal not only their customers but their best employees as well?

Their arguments resonated with county commissioners, who quickly voted to nix the incentives, effectively killing the plan. Rob Sitterley represented the company when the county backed away from the plan earlier this year and was quoted by WWSB Channel 40 news as saying that the company didn’t even do residential roofing.

“The misinformation that the builder exchange was able to put out there – it worked. It wasn’t about the discussion of what these headquarters jobs would do for Sarasota residents; it was a scare tactic of what it’s going to do to local and small residential roofers. But this project did not compete with them,” said Sitterley.

The company must have really liked southwest Florida, however. After being jilted by Sarasota, they announced last month they had accepted an even better offer from Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa.

According to The Sarasota Herald Tribune, the company, North American Roofing, has said it plans to relocate some of its 100 employees from its Asheville, North Carolina headquarters to the new location but that it also plans to hire about 70 percent of the new staff positions locally.

So one is left to wonder whether their treatment here will lead North Americans to recruit some of those new hires from the very companies that suggested that as being their intention all along…even if the idea had never crossed their mind before its suggestion was used to turn the tide of public opinion against them.

After all, an awful lot of folks in this area commute to Tampa for work; and though revenge may not be the noblest of human pursuits it can indeed be sweet.

Big Payoff for Contest Winner

The online retail startup Jet.com was eager to drive folks to their new site, so they came up with an idea for a competition to see who could sign up the most new subscribers. Eric Morton, 28, of York, PA, took the challenge very seriously, spending $18,000 of his own savings to run ads on sites like Swagbuck and Gifthulk. His strategy paid off. He was the clear winner, with more than 8000 new members enrolled. His prize? 100,000 shares in the startup. That was back in March and though as a private company Jet doesn’t reveal the value of its shares, suffice to say the total value of the prize was many times more than Morton’s initial $18,000 investment.

But the real payoff was yet to come. Motivated by fears of falling behind Amazon in the world of E-commerce, Wal-Mart laid out 3.3 billion to purchase the fledgling Jet recently. The estimated value of Morton’s shares now? Somewhere north of $20 million.

Bumper Sticker Drop-Off?

Have you noticed a drop-off in bumper stickers proudly proclaiming a driver’s presidential candidate of choice so far in this election cycle? I thought I saw a pro Hillary one the other day while driving along University Parkway, but as I pulled closer at a stoplight it was revealed to be anything but: in much smaller type below the large block letters spelling out “HILLARY!” were the words “for prison, 2016.”

And perhaps many would be Trump supporters have shied away from putting “Make America Great Again” stickers on their vehicles for fear of being branded as racists, since according to Clinton (Bill, not Hill) we all know that catch phrase is simply good ‘ole boy code for wanting to return to the days of our distant forefathers when cotton was king and we sipped mint-juleps on the front porch in top hats, ties and long tailed jackets instead of chugging down a few brews after work sitting on the tailgate of our F-100 pickups wearing cutoffs and ball caps.

Who knew? Certainly not Bill, who in 1992 repeatedly said much the same thing about restoring the republic’s former greatness that had been so recklessly squandered by Bush the elder and those ‘rascally republicans.’

I’ve yet to see any stickers for libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, though “What’s Aleppo?” might be a way to build some name recognition, since that message just might jog a disinterested electorate’s memory: “Oh yeah…THAT guy…”

While on the Topic of Bumper Stickers…

Spotted by a friend on a dusty, wind swept, west Texas highway, this inspiring, yet earthly message: “JESUS LOVES YOU (but everyone else thinks you’re an ***hole”).

Ringling Museum Admission Inflation?

I wonder what John Ringling would think of his namesake museum’s recently adopted a la carte pricing plan. Admission remains $25.00, but that price previously included entrance to the Ringling residence and other attractions on the grounds including the circus museum. Those ‘add-ons’ will now set visitors back an additional $10.

Monday’s will still be free, but for the museum only; the $10 add-on charge will now apply if you want to tour Ca d’ Zan, or the Circus Museum on that day. Ringling stipulated the free admission on Monday policy as a condition of his bequest to the people of Florida. So the new pricing plan strikes some as a means of skirting his intent to make his legacy available to as many people as possible…especially those who live in Florida and are on a tight budget.

Ringling loved art, but he also loved the circus. But as a businessman and promoter I doubt he would have embraced a ‘three-ring’ circus concept where patrons were charged separately for each of the separate three ring attractions.

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