Thursday, January 27, 2011

More on Bio-Mimicry

Theresa Connor of Environmental Services spoke about Biomimicry in her presentation to Civics 101. Here's a TED talk on the topic given by Janine Benyus, author of Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature:

A Tale of Two Cities

A study comparing Minneapolis and Miami that attempts to compare modes of civic involvement. Do you find it convincing?

MIAMI, FL – January 24, 2011 – A new report released today shows Miami is the least civically engaged in the country compared to Minneapolis-St. Paul, the most engaged metropolitan area. The report helps to shed light on the contributing factors behind each city’s civic engagement in an effort to improve civic health. Researchers say that while the two areas differ demographically those differences do not explain the gap between their civic engagements. [Full text below]

Monday, January 24, 2011

Richard Dreyfuss on Civics

When I ask students what was so revolutionary about our Revolutionary War, the answer is usually that we broke away from Great Britain. And I say, no, it was that for the first time ever, we were actualizing the idea that the ruler and the ruled were one thing and that the people were not the audience to the performance of the nobility, that we were all the same value and all contributed. And that was at the time probably the most important message in 13,000 years of politics.
A remarkable, thoughtful conversation with Richard Dreyfuss from the Diane Rehm Show about his new life's direction - from acting he's moved on to actualizing civics through a new organization, The Dreyfuss Initiative.

His website outlines what the Initiative is:

Civic education is the founding mandate of public education. Free public schools were developed in America for the express purpose of raising up good citizenship. This purpose has been abandoned and must be regained. Thus the mission of The Initiative is to create a demand for a more expert learning experience and to give our kids the splendid pleasure of learning what power they have.

Research over the past fifty years has demonstrated that the average American has, to say the least, a rather poor understanding of Civic Knowledge. But, by example, America has made democracy the governance system of choice.

Democracy, in any incarnation is the only governing system that requires some engagement by the civic body.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Power Point of Matt Lewis's Fruitville 210 Presentation

Excellent slides illustrating the major areas and points of Matt Lewis's presentation to The Fruitville 210 Alliance: (For a full-page view, click here).

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Framing a Community

In a brief presentation Tuesday evening, Matt Lewis sketched the defining elements of a Sarasota community coming into clearer focus.

Lewis, manager of long range planning for Sarasota County, spoke to the Fruitville 210 Alliance, a network of neighborhoods centering on the I-75 interchange at Fruitville Rd.

At the north end of the area in question is Nathan Benderson Park, an emerging world class rowing facility; at the south end stand the Celery Fields, a wetlands sanctuary for waterfowl.

Add them together, said Lewis, and "you start to see the community being enframed."

The Honore Ave. extension, which will feed into the southern portion of the area, should be complete by this summer. It will include roundabouts at Palmer, Sawgrass, and Camus, and certain areas will be distinguished by brick pavers.

North Cattlemen Road will extend up along the eastern edge of Benderson to DeSoto Road, and will have medians, sidewalks, wildlife crossings near the park, bike paths, and landscaping. It should be complete by 2013, and will serve as another North/South corridor parallel to Honore.

Fruitville Road's four-laning itself should be complete by February, and will also offer bike paths and landscaping. It will be a "beautiful signature gateway," Lewis said.

Additionally, at Bahia Vista and Cattlemen, a new Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and 911 center is slated to be built with the help of Homeland Security funding. It's been fast-tracked to be completed by 2013.

Wetlands restoration and walking trails at the southern end of Celery Fields Park should be complete by Spring of this year. Going forward, the large observation mound will offer trails for hiking and birding. Ponds at the north end might be designated for more active uses, such as boating, Lewis said.

Benderson Park is shaping up, with design completion set for 2012, and construction to be finished by the winter of 2013. It will have uses other than rowing, such as fishing, paddle sports, biking, concerts and more. But as a cornerstone of sports tourism, it's already showing its potential: Notre Dame is training there now, and Harvard's team will be there this week, said John Krotec of Fruitville 210.

The Fruitville Initiative, which involves the eastern quadrants of the I-75 interchange, has been developing via charrettes and dialog with the community. Lewis recalled that it was the first thing he worked on when he joined the county's staff in 2001, and it's now being reviewed by experts who are poring over what the community and the county came up with last summer. A Master Plan should be set in the coming year, which will show how the streets will work, what future buildings will look like, and possibly how a community center could become part of the projected employment center.

The coming year is "a big year for Fruitville 210," said Lewis. As these projects move toward deadlines, the picture of a community is beginning to emerge. The entire buildout will take place "over generations," says Lewis, but residents can anticipate public community meetings this summer to look at what the detailed projections are shaping up to be. Since there are economic components here, Lewis indicated there is likely going to be a economic development plan for the community.

These results represent a lot of hard work on the part of the community and the county. There were long, sometimes contentious sessions over guidelines for the Fruitville Initiative, and a debate with downtown hoteliers over funding Benderson Park with tourist tax monies.

In a sense, these intertwined projects offer a case study in the ways, means, tactics and strategies of civic, and civil, dialog. At the end of Matt Lewis's presentation, one attendee, Harmon Heed, stood up to recommend the County's Civics 101 class to those present. "It lets you know how to get things done in the county," he said. He also recommended the Sheriff's CLEA program, where citizens learn close up about law enforcement.

The fashioning of this large, complex, multi-faceted area, with its wealth of competing values, interests, and agendas is not complete, but it's well underway. Can we view it as a fair example of civics in action?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Civic Planning: An Example

I take the liberty of sharing John Krotec's invitation to Tuesday's meeting of the Fruitville 210 Alliance. The Alliance comprises several neighborhoods in the vicinity of the Fruitville exit of I-75. It's a vibrant community group that has been a constructive participant in several ongoing planning initiatives, including Benderson Park and the Fruitville Initiative. For those interested in civics might find this group's interaction with County Planners interesting and instructive:

Happy New Year!!!

Despite the current economy, there are a lot of positive things taking place in the Fruitville 210 area:

• Improvements continue on Honore Avenue, Fruitville Road, & the Celery Fields.

• Groundbreaking will start soon at the Nathan Benderson Park & North Cattlemen Road.

• Future plans are in the works for the Fruitville Initiative & University Town Center.

Please join us this Tuesday evening, Jan. 11th, from 6:30-7:45 pm at the Sabal Palm Bank, 5101 Fruitville Road. The Sarasota County Planning Department will update us about the projects mentioned and will answer any of your important questions. ALL of these projects will have an effect on our quality-of-life.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Upscale Express Buses to Connect Sarasota Cities

A Transportation Update:

Beginning in March, Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) will offer a new express bus service running from North Port and Venice to Sarasota. New vehicles will include high-back seats, WI-FI, bicycle racks and more -- click on image for larger view:

Civics 101 2011 Schedule Set

The Civics 101 Spring 2011 course schedule is now posted on the Web -- just click here. According to County Neighborhood Coordinator Vickie French, the new schedule includes a tour of the Historic Courthouse and SCAT bus tours that will lead to walking tours of South Lido Park and Phillippi Estate Park. Applications for the class can be downloaded here.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Start the New Year right by volunteering in a 1906 Historic House

Lynda Seidl shares this call for volunteers at the Wilson House:

Sarasota County recently completed the rehabilitation of the historic Wilson House located at Urfer Family Park. We invite your assistance as a Wilson House volunteer to help us open the house on a regular basis. As a volunteer you will open and close the house, greet visitors, and answer questions related to the exhibits on display there.

The exhibits at Wilson were developed to relay the interesting history of the house, the impact of Dr. C. B. Wilson and his family on life in early Sarasota, as well as the agricultural and natural history of the area. The Wilson House also serves as the Roland Abraham Trail Center and has exhibits on Sarasota County’s vast system of trails. (Legacy Trail Map.)

Volunteer opportunities…

Need your commitment for a two-hour shift twice per month. Days/times are noted below. There will be two volunteers per shift.

Beginning on Tuesday January 18th:

· Tuesday from 9:30 – 11:30

· Thursday from 2:30 – 4:30

· Saturday from 9:30 – 11:30

Ready to Volunteer…

Go to “Volunteers." Follow the on-line direction and indicate “Urfer Family Park” as the site.

Want to know more…

Visit the Wilson House on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday from 9:30 – 11:30 through January 14th (exclusive of New Year’s eve) to see the house and exhibits first hand, or contact Lynda Eppinger at 650-2487.