Greetings from the Gulf: June

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An election, a sandal collection, an attempted lobster extraction, and a back-seat question

By John Morton

Siesta Key. These are the two most important words in Sarasota County.

After all, where else do hundreds of thousands of people in immediate proximity to a beautiful powder-sand beach get 976 parking spots tossed in for free? That’s what Siesta offers, and Turtle has another 300.

Spread across our beach accesses, there’s another 138.

I lived on Fort Myers Beach where there are ZERO free beachfront parking spots. I lived near Clearwater Beach, where the story is the same. Throughout Florida, what Siesta Key offers is unheard of.

That said, not only should residents of Siesta Key care about our island but the whole county should follow suit. Do you know how many people have told me they live as close to Siesta Key as possible, because of the beach and the overall vibe? You don’t think all our traffic is to blame on tourists, do you?

And, do you think our county residents connect with spontaneous trips to parking-sparse Lido and Longboat like they do Siesta?

No way.

So, I’m pleased to learn that the Save Siesta Key incorporation team is interested in interviewing and possibly endorsing candidates for the two Sarasota County Commission seats up for grabs this fall. Both include territory which encompass our island – District 2 the north half, District 4 the south half.

And I’m pleased to learn that the Siesta Key Association, or maybe some other civic group, is considering the organizing of candidate forums related to the same.

Of all places in the county, Siesta Key should hold power and prestige as far as commission hopefuls are concerned. You’d think they would understand how critical it is to ensure Siesta’s safekeeping.

In case they don’t, they need to be exposed.

On its own, Siesta boasts only about 7,200 registered voters out of the roughly 255,000 throughout the county. Gulp.

But, remember, the March 8 special election upheld the single-member district voting format, which no doubt helps local candidates. Those closer to an issue and candidate are more likely to pay attention, right?

Instead of that quarter of a million voting in all districts, we’re instead talking 66,720 (25,632 Democrats, 23,763 Republicans, and 16,042 non-party) registered voters in District 2 and 73,153 (21,061 Democrats, 32,594 Republicans, and 18,115 non-party) registered voters in District 4.

 Let’s make sure candidates are fully vetted. Let’s make sure voters are informed to the hilt.

Here’s to Siesta residents leading that mission.

FYI, Florida primary elections exist in a closed-primary format, meaning you can only vote for the candidates under the party for which you are registered.

I’ve never liked this, but 14 states do it this way.

The Sarasota County Commission primaries are Aug. 23. If you aren’t registered, or want to change your party affiliation, your deadline is July 25. Visit to learn how.

Seeing as Siesta Key will have at least two residents in a primary — at this point they are Mike Cosentino (Democrat) and Lourdes Ramirez (Republican) in District 2, both of whom have ran previously — the primary vote is nothing to ignore. We have actual representation!

Come November for the general election between primary victors, party affiliation is of course no longer in play.

Whether they be locals or not, imagine two Siesta Key-endorsed winners joining a five-person county commission in November knowing that sitting member Nancy Detert has voted in support — and often as the lone vote — of most of the island’s concerns. That would be quite the sudden swing.

So, for starters, everyone here needs to vote. How could anyone consider taking a pass at this point?

As for the commission elections, which I consider the most important in Siesta Key history, Cosentino is up against Hagen Brody, a current Sarasota city commissioner, and Fredd Atkins, a former city commissioner who also served as mayor.

Ramirez faces Christain Ziegler, the incumbent.

Regarding District 4, incumbent Alan Maio is done as the result of term limits. Thus far, two Republican candidates are in the fray: remodeling contractor Mark Hawkins of Sarasota and Dr. Joseph Neunder, a member of the Venice City Council.

Now, wouldn’t it be nice if the Key had a local resident or two in the District 4 race as well?

If YOU would like to run, you’ll need to file and meet specific criteria by the qualifying period of noon, June 13 through noon, June 17.

Those who win a commission seat earn about 80 large per year.

For details, call the county’s elections office at (941) 861-8606.

A man with a lot of sole

In April, the creations by local artist David Skaggs were displayed in our Community Spotlight feature.

Now, in tribute to turtle-nesting season and in recognition of the importance of keeping our beaches clean, he has built a sea turtle made of the more than 250 abandoned sandals he has collected.

Visit if interested in this rubbery friend he appropriately calls Flippy Floppy.  

Boiling mad at the Lobster Pot

The folks at the Lobster Pot in the Village report that people attempted to steal their beloved mascot Claudette — ha, ha, CLAW-dette!  — from outside the restaurant on May 9.

They are asking the public for help in identifying the culprits.

When caught, they’ll certainly be in some hot water!

Are we there yet? Are we there yet?

For Chris Brown, buyer of the building that holds Crescent Beach Grocery and who’s a smart Wisconsinite like me who fled the frozen tundra, imagine the “What is going in there?” questions he must be getting.

I’ll bet they rival the scenario where a dad is driving the family to something highly anticipated and from the back seat there’s the constant “Are we there yet?” chorus.

And I’m one of those snot-nosed brats. I can’t wait to find out. Tell me now! Tell me now!

(P.S. Trust me, this is how good reporters operate.)

So, how many does he get per day?

“I’d say 20, on average,” Brown said.

Has there ever been more curiosity on the Key? That high-profile spot has 70 years of history behind it, all as a grocery store.

This will be interesting.

And I trust that Brown will make the right choice. By that, I mean he’ll see to it that there’s a cheese curd stand in the parking lot.

(John Morton is managing editor of Siesta Sand.)

John Morton
Author: John Morton

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