Extremely Payne-ful

On County

SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY JUN 1, 2019

There are three types of Sarasota City Commission meetings; the good, the bad and the ugly, i.e. the ones that make you physically ill. For me, the May 20 commission meeting, pitting the Save Payne’s Parkers versus Sarasota Orchestra went down as one of the ugliest, stomach-churning meetings ever. It was equally exhausting to watch as it was embarrassing in that such a mere concept of an idea could create such a froth of misplaced resistance and resentment toward one of our city’s most respected, historic civic partners.

Four out of five commissioners displayed both their complete lack of the most basic urban planning concepts and their soul-seizing fear of a petite political mob in yellow shirts and those high-visibility vests that are usually worn when directing traffic. Yes strange, yet strangely Sarasota, and I can’t help but see the irony of the color choice. Yellow.  

One can only wonder, first Mote, now the Orchestra; who’s next? Ringling College?  

I have become used to the overly affected emotional content, the intellectual dishonesty, the open invitation to engage in some first-world class warfare etc. What I can’t get used to is the complete lack of curiosity and the complete disinterest in a long-term vision for a community. 

Think of it as if YOU were gone tomorrow, what would you want for THE COMMUNITY? 

It is beyond problematic when commissioners craft public policy exclusively for a small yet very loud minority, a minority whose idea of the future is the next three minutes and the ideal is rooted somewhere in the past. Ever see that film Midnight in Paris? It’s a bit like that. Although, some might not want to watch a film set in Paris, because you know, Paris has a lot of traffic.   

The Orchestra made it very clear that this is just a concept. Yes, it’s just a concept—a completely brilliant one.  I’m not sure if it’s possible or feasible yet, but why not allow ourselves time and space to examine and explore it before we drown it in a “duck pond”?

How could four out of five commissioners completely miss how transformative this could be?

Payne Park is in the middle of the urban core and soon to be connected to what will be the biggest transportation game-changer of all time, The Legacy Trail. One can only shake their head. For anyone listening, it seemed that most of the opposition speakers had one thing in common; they didn’t hear a word the Orchestra people said. Not a word. Just because you came to say something specific does not mean that you have to say if after being provided with new information. But of course when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail, especially when you throw in a few buzzwords like green space and traffic study. They will certainly be relevant, just not yet.  

So what of the Orchestra? The fact remains that the Sarasota Orchestra has had a 70-year relationship with this community and over 50 years as a city tenant, partner and integral cultural asset. It did not deserve to be maligned and have its mere legitimacy questioned. This is not a new relationship; this has been a long and overwhelmingly successful marriage. The entire community has benefited enormously. Oh and for the record, there is nothing, and I mean nothing, elitist about a bunch of working-class professional musicians earning a living.  

We won’t get into the very strange ideas expressed by one of the commissioners, regarding how a city manager should operate, not yet. Perhaps I will save that for next month. A month should give the commissioner in question enough time to have a look at the city charter. If we are lucky, some questions about leadership will arise.

Yes, it’s about leadership alright, and we could certainly use some right now. 

P.S. This column contains less than the usual amount of satire for a reason as there is really nothing funny about any of this.

Paul Caragiulo is a former Sarasota city and county commissioner.

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