Greetings from the Gulf: July

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Spurned and burned and so little learned

By John Morton

Thank you, Florida Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee, for bringing back a time-honored communication technique for which I was known. You know, the one where if there’s something you don’t want to hear you smile at your adversary, calmly place your fingers in your ears, and scream “LAH! LAH! LAH! LAH! LAH! LAH! LAH! LAH! LAH! LAH! …”
Finally, I was told to knock it off one year by a guidance counselor on the first day of school. I remember thinking, “Hey, I thought high school was going to be fun!”

Anyway, Save Siesta Key’s House Bill 923, which asked that residents be given the chance to vote whether our island should become its own municipality, was downright ignored for five weeks by this committee – right on the heels of unanimous approval by the first committee SSK visited.
Not a word of warning. Not a status report. Not an update. And, after it died without even reaching an agenda, certainly not an explanation. Bupkis.
So rude, so pompous and, in many ways, so childish.
Regardless of whether you support incorporation, it’s hard to deny that Save Siesta Key has been royally screwed by the political process. First, the local delegation of legislators kills nine months of work with a 3-3 vote, having the nerve to lecture the group after the fact on how it could have won after they had all been interviewed by the group in person prior to the vote.
Save Siesta Key pays attention to the suggestions, however, conducts a $40,000 straw poll, and goes to Tallahassee with what it believes is all bases covered. And then this? A snub of all snubs?
It deserved so much better.

Our state representatives that make up the House come from all walks of life, bring many talents, and hardly get rich doing this. It is often a political springboard and being a master at moving things along is the name of the game.
Hopefully, more so than grinding them to a halt.
But, when together, the members often become a power-drunk collection of big-talking blowhards. I watched parts of the Florida Legislature at work back in April on the Florida Channel, and oh my how they waxed poetic on their bills. Then there’s the best of all – the “I agree” bit where they slime their colleagues with superlatives while also showing their constituents how much they’re engaged.
Apparently, the easiest way to be heard in these parts is by having nothing to say. Here’s the kind of mumbo-jumbo you can expect:
“Allow me to echo the sentiments of our truly fine statesman from Swampsville! Waging the war against public lizard mating at Yeehaw Junction is as fine an example of public service as I do hereby recall. And let the record show I wholly concur.”
Say the above in your best Foghorn Leghorn, and you’ll like it even more.
Speaking of characters, the Schoolhouse Rock! producers now need to re-shoot the “I’m Just a Bill” segment because of this fiasco. Let’s keep it real, people.
Scene 1: Our bill, Bill, donning a Siesta Key tourist T-shirt, paces alone up and down the capitol steps while other cartoon characters walk by and point at him, whispering to one another. Two of them are the town seal of Redington Beach.
Scene 2: A blank screen that only reads 35 DAYS LATER.
Scene 3: An emaciated, soaked, down-and-out Bill is shown living under a pier on Redington Beach. The sympathetic seagulls are throwing him pieces of Wonder bread.
I bring up Redington Beach, a little town on the Gulf of Mexico in nearby Pinellas County, for a reason.
Pinellas has 24 incorporated municipalities in its 608 square miles. Sarasota County, in its 725 square miles, has four.
In Redington Beach, only 1,370 people reside in what is one square mile of space. On Siesta Key, about 7,000 people live on 3.46 square miles of space.
Little Redington Beach can be one of Florida’s 411 municipalities, but Siesta Key can’t?
Also perplexing is how James Buchanan, vice-chairman of that before mentioned Ways & Means Committee and a Sarasota County legislator who twice voted down the Siesta Key incorporation effort’s attempt to even get to Tallahassee (once in victory, a second time in defeat), during his most recent vote of rejection mentioned how the state’s incorporation statute prohibits the creation of municipalities within 2 miles of an existing one. Siesta Key, for example, is within 2 miles of Sarasota.
Well, the state waives that restriction all the time. In Pinellas County, most of the towns, villages and cities are stacked upon one another. Do you really think Redington Beach isn’t close to Redington Shores?
Back to our buddies in the Ways & Means Committee. I can’t help but wonder if Glenn Close herself would have gotten a rise out of these self-proclaimed know-it-alls. Her steely-eyed stare when proclaiming “I’m not going to be ignored” from Fatal Attraction would have likely been laughed out of the room. And they would have returned to their bill promoting rabbit stew. 
As for Siesta Key’s incorporation group, it is at one hell of a crossroads. Does it scramble to raise more funds and reapply by Sept. 1 for a third time, knowing the same people await it at that infamous Ways & Means Committee?
SSK treasurer Steve Lexow reported it would cost about $100,000 to go through the process again, and the coffers are now bare. And remember, Save Siesta Key is a 501(c)(4) entity – its donors cannot write-off their contributions. It makes their ability to have raised $265,000 even more impressive.
Or does Save Siesta Key wait a year, hoping for changes in the political ranks via both term limits and the next round of elections in the fall of 2024?
Or does it throw up its hands in disgust?
Soon after Tim Hensey was named chairman of Save Siesta Key about a year into its existence, he described its first surprise defeat at the hands of the legislative delegation as being “taken to the political woodshed.”
What could he possibly say about what just happened in Tallahassee? That his group just came out of a torture chamber? Or in this case, torture chambers?
But why moan and groan about it when it seems to fall upon deaf ears?
You know, lah, lah, lah, lah, lah lah lah.

(John Morton is managing editor of Siesta Sand.)

John Morton
Author: John Morton

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