Archive for January, 2011

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The City of Sarasota has a major election coming up, as three seats on the City Commission are up for grabs. Have you registered to vote? Do you know which district you live in? Have you met the candidates? Local elections are extremely important, as local decisions have the greatest impact on your day to day life. The elections will take place March 8th, with February 7th being the last day to register.

“The City encourages you to participate in all elections. Voting is a fundamental right of our democracy. When you vote, you could be selecting Commissioners, voting on Referendums or Amendments to the City Charter. The Commission approves Ordinances and Resolutions; voter turnout determines what Referendums and Amendments pass. All of this with your participation will define how the City of Sarasota functions and how we live together.

Municipal government is involved in many aspects of our daily lives – from fixing roads, providing water and electricity, collecting garbage, supporting the arts, providing and maintaining sports venues and protecting our City’s citizens. Make an informed choice and browse the City’s website to learn about the issues facing the City of Sarasota and the City Commission’s many areas of responsibilities.” (from the City of Sarasota website)

Register to vote and find other important information at srqelections.com



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2011 Winter Forum

You don’t have to be a marketing guru to know that youth sells. Everything it seems, including cities, are sold to the youth. Picture crowded sidewalks in the vaunted Creative City—a bunch of stylish 20 and 30 somethings, right? But as important as the energy and innovation of youth is, there’s something really important that the young don’t have: the wisdom of experience. Isn’t this an area where Sarasota could perhaps shine even brighter? Could it be that the Sarasota’s “silver sector” is the key to economic growth?

SCOPE, our exceptional local think tank, thinks so.

Since early 2005, SCOPE’s initiative, Aging – The Possibilities has focused on the role of older adults as untapped assets in our community. How do we maximize both the substantial talent of this population and the opportunities for individuals to age in place while retaining an active and independent lifestyle?  Over 900 residents participated in this initiative.

SCOPE’s annual Winter Form on Aging will be held on Friday, February 25, at the Chelsea Center in Sarasota. Featured speakers are Drs. George Vaillant from Harvard Medical School and Helen Kivnick from the University of Minnesota. Interested in how Sarasota might be able to grow its economy on the strength of its senior citizens? Check out SCOPE’s website for more information and to sign up for the winter forum.

SRQ has always attracted successful retirees from diverse professional backgrounds. And in recent years, anchored by the success of New College and Ringling School of Art & Design, a young creative class has indeed been developing. Aren’t there ways to bring them together more (through mentoring, or even collaborative efforts)? To encourage a greater sense of community across boundaries such as age (and, likely, aesthetics)? To involve everyone who’s willing in the building of an urban village? We’ve seen glimpses of it first hand in Laurel Park, where hipsters, families, and retirees live cheek to cheek. But couldn’t different demographic groups combine their respective strengths and leverage them into something really dynamic?

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There’s a Greek proverb that says, “A city grows great when men plant trees under whose shade they will never sit.” The idea, of course, is that for future generations to thrive present generations must be proactive. If done right, change in cities happens gradually. Better to plant a tree and let it grow than to install a full grown one. But think about it this way—if a few dozen neighbors got together and spent a weekend planting southern live oak seeds, Sarasota would be a city of canopy roads by the time our children are grown and having their own children. Such a simple act as planting seeds (and of course tending to the growing trees) would make Sarasota more beautiful, keep it cooler in the summer, encourage walking and bicycling (and hence sociability), improve air quality, and raise property values, among other benefits.

This post isn’t about planting trees, however. It’s about starting 2011 off right by renewing our commitment to ourselves, each other, and our city as neighbors and citizens. Those of us who live in Sarasota, whether year-round or seasonally, know how fortunate we are. Our humble hamlet has two top colleges (New College of Florida and the Ringling School of Art & Design), an opera house, a symphony orchestra, the splendid Ringling Museum and adjacent Asolo Conservatory of Performing Arts. We have gorgeous beaches (including Crescent Beach on Siesta Key, which has been named one of the world’s most beautiful), keys, a bay ideal for sailing, and several extraordinary urban parks including Island Park and Arlington Park. We have a botanical wonderworld in Selby Garden, a community-oriented thinktank in SCOPE, a homegrown weekly farmer’s market, and a quintessential American downtown anchored by Main Street, the Selby Public Library, and Whole Foods.

The list of Sarasota’s amenities goes on and on, but we’ve left out the most important one: us. The residents of a city are always its most essential and influential amenity, and the role of Sarasota’s citizens increases in importance as the economic crisis in Florida continues. Cities have less money to spend even as the issues requiring their attention increase. So it falls to us, the residents, to be more involved, more collaborative, more proactive. We at Laurel Park Management will continue to do everything we can to honor the gifts Sarasota gives to us all—we will continue to participate in local issues, communicate with our neighbors, and work to make Sarasota as good a place to live, work, and play as it can possibly be.

Won’t you join us? Will you make a New Year’s resolution to be the best neighbor and citizen you can be?

A recent article in Grist offers seven suggestions as to how such a resolution might be put into practice:

1. Plant something

Green, living things can radically change people’s moods and health. It’s an idea that biologist Edward O. Wilson explored in his book Biophilia, and it has been backed up in many studies since. A tree or a flower brings great happiness, and it can connect you to the people in your neighborhood. I have a small container garden outside my house, and people often stop to tell me how much they enjoy it.

2. Pick up litter

This one is dead easy. Sadly, no matter where you live, there’s likely to be litter. Maybe it’s blowing around on the sidewalk (that’s nearly always the case here in Brooklyn). Maybe it’s dumped by the side of a beautiful country road. Maybe it’s in the parking lot of your local mall. Maybe (I hate this) it’s on a favorite hiking path.

3. Get to know your neighbors

Really, even the irritating ones. I’ve lived on the same block for 10 years, and when I moved in, I had some ugly conflicts with the raucous (understatement) extended family that lives a few doors down. But I stuck to saying hello and letting them know I wasn’t going anywhere. Now they look out for my kid when he hangs out and plays on the street. I’ve been to the wakes of two of the family members in the past year. We care about each other in our weird, neighborly way.

4. Find out who your government representatives are

All of them. State, federal, city, town. Selectman, alderman, sheriff, dogcatcher — whatever they have in your part of the world. Then, when you have a problem, you know who to lean on to get it fixed. You are paying these people’s salaries. They work for you. Boss them around a little. You might be surprised how they listen to direction. {keep reading at grist.org}

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