Off Islands

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By Rodger Skidmore 

Thousands of Books burned on Longboat Key
In late August Longboat Key hosted a book burning. High party officials had “strongly suggested” that residents bring books and other papers that were deemed “offensive”, to the square in front of the town hall for the high noon burning. Regime members were pleased with the outcome.

Oops, my bad.  It was a free document-shredding event aimed at getting a lot of unwanted paper – like old tax documents, bank statements, and other sensitive papers, recycled, rather than having them taken to the county dump. The town of Longboat Key and Quickshred, the shredding service company, jointly sponsored this service. Thousands of pages of unwanted material were shredded.

What to do with an extra $13 million
Manatee County School District officials found themselves in a bind. They need to finalize their budget in September and discovered that they had overtaxed residents by millions of dollars. You can’t just sweep that much money under the rug (unless, of course, you bought a bigger rug).

One way to guarantee that the money will be spent is to start spending it before the budget is finally approved, which is the board’s plan. Their idea was to hire about 35 security officers and administrators for the county’s elementary schools before school opened on August 18th. They already have guards in all their middle and high schools.

Over the past few years there have been a number of school shooting incidents, estimated at 22 per year by Everytown for Gun Safety, since the Sandy Hook shooting of 2012. Given that there are 138,925 public, private and post secondary schools in the US (as of 2010), this was .00016 shootings per school. Many times one hears the phrase “if spending a million dollars (in this case $1.68 million) saves one life, it will be worth it”. Or, to quote, Manatee County board member Barbara Harvey, “an old dress is better than no dress at all.”

But is .00016 an accurate number for the elementary schools in Manatee County? As many of the shootings across the nation were gang related, that number is too high for schools where there is little or no gang activity and perhaps too low for those with such action. Given that most gangs are active in high schools, with some in middle schools, the incidence in elementary schools should prove to be quite low. While the young children of Guatemala and Nicaragua are fleeing violence in their countries, the Bloods and the Crips are not yet recruiting kids in kindergarten thru fifth grade.

A side issue is that the majority of those asking for security guards tend to be the more vocal and affluent parents.

So what to do? Perhaps they should be hiring security guards only for the schools most apt to need them  – mainly selected area high schools. This tax money might be spent more wisely on anger management courses. These courses could be instituted for all grades in all schools, starting in kindergarten. Such an approach might reduce school shootings and bullying now, and later in life reduce the flair-ups between spouses and partners. Teaching something of lasting value might be a better approach than putting our students into a prison like situation with armed guards patrolling the hallways.

Here comes the Double Whammy
Longboat Key Town Manager Dave Bullock has proposed a property tax increase of over $959,000 for the coming fiscal year starting October 1st. This is on top of the extra revenue generated by the 5.5% rise in assessed property values over the previous year. Actually the two amounts are both part of the overall property tax system. The current assessed rate of 2.0760% combined with the proposed increase of 0.1003% will total 2.1763%. Increased property values generate additional tax revenue and an increased millage rate generates additional tax revenue. Both are tax increases so this really sounds like a double whammy for the residents of Longboat Key.

Now you see it, now you don’t …. and then you see it again
Besides establishing some of our first National Parks, President Theodore Roosevelt set up our National Wildlife Refuge system. And Passage Key, located a bit to the north of us, at the entrance to Tampa Bay, was one of the first. Back in 1905, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Passage Key was over 60 acres in size and contained its own freshwater, spring fed lake. By 1910 it even had its own Audubon game warden to help protect the over 100 species of birds that were sighted on the island.

Unfortunately the 1921 hurricane that battered the Tampa Bay area also did a job on Passage Key and it pretty much disappeared. Fortunately the currents that had built it up in the first place are still in play and the key has begun to emerge once more. While still fluctuating in size, it is large enough (four acres) and high enough for shore birds to wade there catching fish with some actually nesting on the highest portions. The birds that have been sighted there include various species of terns as well as a fair number of pelicans.

Another species, the human variety, has also been sighted in the waters off the edge of the island as nudists have begun to flock there as well. As the only way to the island is by boat, these naturalists (nudists) tend to stay on board or frolic in the water. They are not supposed to walk on the sand that makes up the refuge, as it frightens the birds.

In years past knowledge about a nudist beach or island was passed along by word of mouth. Today with social media and blog sites on the Internet like TripAdvisor, Wikipedia and Fox News, everyone seems to be fully informed (but not clothed) on the subject.

Siesta Sand
Author: Siesta Sand

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