Greetings from the Gulf: Let’s not fight, let’s just vote

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By John Morton

Here’s the triumphant scene: In wet khaki pants, I’m wading up to Beer Can Island, corn cob in mouth.

Next time, it will be a corn cob pipe. Promise.

“I have returned!” I declare, all MacArthur-like, albeit a bit garbled, while pulling those annoying yellow stringy things out of my teeth.

Still, what is left of the residents of the northern tip of Longboat Key cower in fear.

No, I didn’t leave behind my shades, flip flops, and cooler again. That’s so 2021!

Now it’s 2023, and since two members of the Sarasota County Legislative Delegation made it clear that becoming our own town may not be easy, we took matters into our own hands.

I am now your self-proclaimed general. Behind me is my trusty captain, obviously named Curt, while Siesta Funship blasts Anna’s sauce from its cannons.

“All hands on the Daiquiri Deck!” is announced by our loyal shipmate.

Good job, Gilligan. Now go walk that Old Salty Dog before there’s an accident.

In the backdrop, as far as the eye can see, are hundreds of fully stocked floating tiki huts and parasailing warriors, fully equipped with water wings.

Save Siesta Key? We saved it all right, taking down everyone in our path. We’re more than a town now. We’re an empire.

Who bankrolled all of this? A famous wealthy family that loves the SKOB. Yes, our first lieutenant is none other than Oysters Rockefeller. Sorry.

Remember, it was state Rep. Fiona McFarland who suggested we join the city of Sarasota. What did its commissioners do? They asked if their city could join us!

And with that, our massive, powerful ranks crossed Big Pass. Good thing it was dredged.

And when we landed on Lido Beach, whose residents also wanted to become their own town, the resistance didn’t last long. Hard to fight on that shell-filled sand when all you’re doing is the hopscotch. Serves you right.

An unarmed St. Armands Circle was next to fall. They now call that day St. Armandsgeddon.

By the way, pointing proudly at the Columbia Restaurant is hardly a defense tactic.

And it was then up to Longboat, where a takeover was eminent. Hey, in 1955 someone allowed it to become a town. And we can’t?

(By the way, Longboat, isn’t that name a bit pretentious? And no, we won’t rename you Huge Yacht. You are now North Siesta.

Trust us, it fits. You’ve been napping throughout this takeover.)

Indeed, the battle for Longboat would last mere minutes. It was truly a Crescent Clubbing, as we gained control of its town hall.

“Damn, this is nice!” I said, “and to think we were going to kick out Scooter of the Beach and set up shop in the Magical Green Lifeguard Tower.”

For now, we’ll stop here. But watch it, Anna Maria.

Don’t make us bring out the U.S.S. Foxy Lady.

***

All fun aside, members of the Save Siesta Key incorporation team must have been frustrated by the comments they received by two elected officials on the state level who represent parts of the Key.

They came at a Sept. 30 meeting, with McFarland and delegation chairman Will Robinson both raising an eyebrow at Save Siesta Key’s motivation. They wondered if zoning disputes with the county are really a good reason.

Well, of course it is. It is THE reason for all of these situations.

Then, Robinson said something very puzzling:

“It’s not done every day in the area and, frankly, it’s not done often in the Legislature.”

Huh?

For starters, it has been done again and again in the area. Just two counties north of us sits Pinellas, and lined up along the water within 11 miles there are Belleair, Belleair Bluffs, Belleair Beach, Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores, Redington Shores, North Redington Beach, and Redington Beach.

All their own town, and some with as few residents as 1,500.

It seems the Belleairs didn’t get along and nor did the Redingtons.

Good thing they weren’t the Remingtons!

A look at some history shows an early 1960s effort was made to combine the Redington communities, and they voted it down.

Hey, folks want their own thing. That’s nothing new.

As for “not done often in the Legislature,” well, that’s the place IT IS done.

Now, I do understand the need for state involvement. It protects every angry neighborhood against trying to bite off more than it can chew.

Whether right or wrong for Siesta Key, we all know the island is well established with infrastructure, civic groups, and property values that are strong and skyrocketing.

You’d think it would be considered a worthy candidate. Even a no-brainer?

Yes, there have been fewer incorporations in recent years, but that’s likely because the number of those on the hunt for incorporation have dwindled.

Florida has a whopping 411 municipalities. Siesta Key shouldn’t be one of them? It’s the state’s largest barrier island that’s unincorporated.

 Either way, while the Sarasota County Legislative Delegation must indeed cast a vote to move forward, Save Siesta Key is asking it to push the matter ahead and let the island itself decide.

That seems simple enough, fair enough. I can’t help but wonder if the two skeptics felt compelled to say at least something in protest — as if it’s the duty of an elected official. To the credit of four others on that board, they said nothing. After all, they had a feasibility study and nearly 2,000 petitions in hand. They had what they needed.

And to McFarland’s and state Sen. Joe Gruters’ credit, they likely will hold a town hall meeting here on the Key in December. For the many of you who weren’t around this summer, this will be your first exposure to a public incorporation conversation. Will it be a pep rally? A courtroom drama? A showdown of sorts?

As for the name Save Siesta Key, some might feel it’s a bit dramatic and even wonder from what on earth does our island need to be saved. Isn’t it already a great place?

That slogan was obviously important to the seven-member board, but the words on its new T-shirts may be more on target at this point:

“Hear our voice. Let us vote.”

And, having spoken to these people many times, I know that’s all they want. A local referendum.

None of them is even interested in an elected position if we do indeed become a town.

If the vote is 7,000 to 7 against, I’m certain they can live with that.

What would haunt them, after all this hard work, is never getting the chance.

(John Morton is managing editor of Siesta Sand.)

John Morton
Author: John Morton

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