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By Robert Frederickson

From Protecting America from Killer Fruits and Vegetables to Banishing the Homeless from the Streets of Downtown Sarasota

Immigration Policy from The Produce Aisle 
A relative recently returning from abroad mentioned her travails getting through customs after inadvertently attempting to bring a foreign born apple into the country. Suffice to say, the apple was not granted entry. Poor thing. You know our priorities as a nation are skewed when fruits and vegetables have a harder time crossing our borders than humans.


Parking 101 
According to the folks at the American Automobile Association (AAA), 74 percent of U.S. drivers don’t have a clue when it comes to proper parking procedures. And the group isn’t talking just about high-end maneuvers like parallel parking, or even simply staying within the lines  – a challenge for many in these parts. No, they’re referring to the basic principle of how you approach a conventional spot like those found in any standard suburban shopping center or mall. The offense? Pulling straight in. That’s right. According to AAA, for safety and convenience sake, drivers should back in, not pull in front bumper first. Who knew? Apparently only 26 percent of us.  

But perhaps the auto club researchers need to make a road trip to Sarasota. As reported previously in this space, in some city of Sarasota owned lots, backing in will get you a ticket. Seems the folks in blue here are thinking about convenience too…their own. With tags only on the back of vehicles, they can’t use their fancy high-tech tag scanners when drivers follow the auto club’s advice.

So while AAA likes to advertise how their services can save you money, following it around here might just set you back a few bucks.


Bumper Sticker of the Day… 
A twist on the familiar “Watch Out For Motorcycles” bumper sticker spotted recently on U.S. 41. “Watch out For Automobiles.” Good advice. For all of us, but especially for cyclists of either the leather or Lycra variety.


Musical Chairs in Sarasota 
First there were parking meters downtown. Then there were none. Once upon a time there were places to sit and relax at five-point park downtown. Then there were none. Now word has it the benches are coming back. Which may be more than can be said for members of the city commission who are about as steadfast in their policy directions as a mobile home lifted skyward in a tornado. Expect more musical chairs in the next election.


The Big Short? 
One of my father-in-law’s favorite sayings was “change is instantaneous.” The hard truth in that nugget was learned recently by the formerly high-flying fast-food chain Chipotle when its stock plunged nearly 30 percent in the aftermath of E.coli cases on the west coast linked to several of its restaurants and shortly thereafter an outbreak of Nolovirus among patrons of one of its Boston area outlets. 

The meteoric rise of the company’s stock price over the last few years – to a high north of $737 per share – was fueled by the careful cultivation of an image that sought to make customers – especially millennials – feel good about the food they were eating by assuring them of the company’s humane treatment of the chickens, pigs and cows providing the animal protein in its offerings, and also that no genetically modified organisms (GMOs) were among the range of produce they used.

But of course, none of this matters if traces of the ‘organic’ fertilizers used to grow your ‘organic’ vegetables make it into the final product served up for your customers, landing them on their commodes for the better part of a weekend, or worse, in a hospital.

All of which proves the wisdom found in another worthy saying Chipotle might want to consider borrowing from the medical professionals some of their patrons have had to seek out: ”First, do no harm.”


Myopic Vision when it comes to Homeless Issue? 
City Manager Tom Barwin commented in the local media recently about the County’s proposed plans to build a come-as-you are shelter just outside the city limits near Myrtle Street, instead of somewhere, far, far away as preferred by Barwin and the city commission he reports to:

“The city of Sarasota represents maybe five percent of the county’s territory. Why would they want to locate a shelter up here when there is 95 percent of the county they could use?” he asked.

Why? Because near downtown is where the vast majority of the chronically homeless population is, and more significantly where they want to be.

The inconvenient truth is that while homelessness exists throughout the county, the most visible face of it is in the urban areas of the city of Sarasota.

Those wanting to free themselves from its grip will accept honest efforts of help wherever that help is offered…be it in downtown Sarasota, on Cattlemen Road or in Venice. But the chronically homeless who see the matter as a lifestyle choice or those with mental health issues and are -– as a consequence – even more difficult to reach will – like the rest of us – seek out convenience in their everyday routines. And the unfortunate reality for the city of Sarasota is that many find that convenience downtown with easy access to food, shelter and places to panhandle.

If the shelter is any distance from town, few among the chronically homeless population delivered to its doors will likely voluntarily remain to take advantage of services offered to help get them get off the streets. In the meantime, taxpayers will have to absorb the costs in transportation charges and added man hours involved in moving them from where they are now (the city) to some far-flung shelter ten, 20 or 30 miles away.

They will return to where they find happiness and convenience, just like the rest of us.



Siesta Sand
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