Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Apply Online for Civics 101, Fall 2011 Session

From the Planning Dept:

Civics 101 - The fall session for 2011 starts September 8th, 2011. Applications are now being accepted.

Civics 101 is a program designed to provide a toolbox of resources on Sarasota County operations and services. The program provides an in-depth and behind the scenes introduction to operations in Community Services, Emergency Services, Financial Planning, Health and Human Services, Planning and Development, Public Communications, Environmental Services and much more. For instance, there are outdoor learning opportunities provided like visiting some of our county parks; Carlton Reserve, Rothenbach Park, and others.

Civics 101 has two sessions - Spring and Fall - both of which are held on Thursday night each week for 10 weeks. You must also participate in one of the many outdoor learning opportunities scheduled. Twenty-five residents are accepted each session on a first-come, first-served basis.

Civics participants will graduate at a Sarasota County Commission meeting upon completion of the requirements outlined in the schedule.

Fill out the application here.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Two from NPR

Bicycle-sharing schemes are a fixture in European cities like Copenhagen, but now they are taking root on American soil. In Washington, D.C., over the past eight months, the nation's largest bike-share system has become so popular, it may become a victim of its own success. Click here for story.

What to do with failed golf courses? In Palm Beach, they're turning a course into a 160-acre park with a driving range, concert lawn, bicycling lanes, picnic grounds. Deerfield Beach is turning half of an old course into a cemetery. And Davie is transforming a former exclusive course into, voila, an affordable golf course.

Incidentally, the Sarasota County Government Sustainability page on Facebook is a rather solitary place - it could use some friends.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Walk 21

Anyone who has visited Vancouver knows it's one of the coolest cities on the continent. I remember being struck by the reticence of the drivers as I walked through downtown. So polite were they that no horns were heard, no screeching tires, and in fact, one could hear the cries of the distant gulls as they few over the harbor.

They're into walking. Now they're holding a conference on walkability, Oct. 3-5, 2011.

More on walkability here, inspired by the work of Jane Jacobs, author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities.

Civic reflection

As Sarasota County finalizes the terms of Jim Ley's departure, one might ask whether, and how, a more open civic dialog might have helped shape a clear, mutual understanding of what is happening.

Not a final overview -- it will be quite some time before a balanced assessment of Mr. Ley's role as county administrator will be possible. Rather, an interim understanding that recognizes his achievements while holding him and all our public officials accountable for actions that are still under investigation.

What seems missing as these details are put in place is, well, the civic voice. The sense that before sending this long-term public official out the door, what he and the County Commission have agreed upon does justice to the people whom they serve.

Under Mr. Ley's governance, the County has kept a tight lid on public spaces for discussion, input, review, and general conversation. The county by policy appears to eschew social media of all forms.

Maybe it's time to take a fresh approach to communicating with ourselves.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Parking changes in effect

New parking areas and charges are in place in downtown Sarasota - click link for map and more info.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Concurrency: An opportunity for civic discussion

Concurrency has been a doctrine in Florida for decades. Essentially it's the rule that new development should not exceed the capacities of roads and other local infrastructure, and should pay to bring the two into balance where deemed necessary. It's been called the "teeth" of growth management.

Now that the state legislature has chosen to remove the Concurrency requirement, what impact could this have? Is Florida about to show a bold new toothlessness?

It will be up to localities to decide whether and when to apply concurrency criteria. Obviously as the newspaper story indicates, many who live here and who attach a significance to quality of life are unhappy with the way lawmakers are going.

What can local government do to help clarify the implications?

For one thing, we have professional planners, as well as regional planners with tremendous expertise. Why not do some projections of how proposed developments are likely to impact traffic, water, population, and more? Take one or a few examples of proposed projects and examine how they would look with and without Concurrency in place.

Then invite the public to view and discuss what they come up with. If this isn't a matter for a public, civic discussion, what is?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Civics Alumni Event May 19th

From Vickie:

It’s that time again for all of us to reunite at the Civics Alumni event on May 19th at the Venice Community Center. Our guest speakers are Bill Furst (Property Appraiser), Commissioner Robinson (District 3 – our new commissioner), and Jeff LaHurd (Sarasota historian and author). The event begins at 5pm and will end at 8pm. Please see the attachment for more details including the agenda and of course the menu. The photos on the front page are of the current class and some of the new activities they have been enjoying.
Please RSVP no later than May 16th for our 6th Alumni gathering.
Vickie French
Click to enlarge:

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

From Rowing Regatta to Celery Fields to Dragon Boats

Two days after the record-breaking attendance at the Benderson Park Rowing Regatta, the Celery Fields Grand Opening celebrated the culmination of years of hard work with a 5k run. Here was the scene before the ceremonies and race:

If you'd like to try yet another mode of racing, find out about the Dragon Boat Festival taking place at Benderson this Saturday, May 7th. It's free, and there's still time to join in.