Off Key News

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By Bob Frederickson

From Island Traffic to Airport Lapses

Slow Down and Enjoy the View…

Part of the allure of Island life has always been the prospect of living life at a slower pace. Now at least one island community has undertaken enforcement of that ideal. The town of Holmes Beach has lowered its speed limit from 35 to 25 mph. Reaction so far has been decidedly mixed, generally breaking along the lines of whether or not you have somewhere you absolutely have to be in five minutes, in which case perhaps the town should post the Jamaican mantra “Irie mon, Irie…” beneath the new speed limit signs.

Bridge Opening Schedule to Change?

Meantime, the Coast Guard is accepting public comments on possible changes to bridge opening schedules along the gulf coast, potentially moving from three to two openings per hour. Under a proposal being considered, the Siesta and Stickney Point bridges would open only at the top and bottom of the hour from 6:00 am through 7:00 pm, while the Cortez and Manatee Avenue bridges leading to Anna Maria would switch to 15 and 45 minutes past the hour.

If you’d like to be heard on the matter, just follow this link through April 14: Type in: Drawbridge Operation Regulation; Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, Sarasota, FL., in search box on top of site.

Sarasota Traffic Update, 2027…

Speaking of traffic, planners from seven SW Florida Counties are uniting to back a proposed consolidation of existing and planned bike trails throughout the region. Dubbed the Gulf Coast Trail effort, backers envision a continuous trail stretching from Clearwater to Naples.

Talk about foresight…dust off your bikes and check your tires: given current traffic trends locally the proposed trail system might just be the fastest way to get around these parts if and when it is ever completed.

Homeless Going Mobile?

The city of Sarasota has entered into an agreement with the Gotcha Group to provide a free trolley service around town, ostensibly for tourists and city residents needing a quick lift from point A to point B.

But it’s sure to be a big hit with the homeless population as well…just another on a long list of amenities that have made Sarasota the Riviera of homeless resort communities, especially during the winter months.

Gotcha’s business model relies on selling advertising space in and on its vehicles. Still, the city of Sarasota has contributed $330,000 to the project. Why? I haven’t a clue…Unless it’s part of some clever plan to keep the homeless from blocking city sidewalks by making them mobile.

Lift Station 87 Update #478 (and counting).

Work on the city of Sarasota’s ill-fated lift station 87 project got underway…again…last month with a new contractor and a brand new plan for micro-tunneling beneath Hudson Bayou, a distance you’d think was wider than the expanse of the Grand Canyon given the city’s woeful failure to make the crossing in its efforts to date. What was supposed to be a three year excursion with a price tag of $9 million has ballooned into a decade (at best) long project with a price tag north of $25 million.

And to think, the Empire State building, at a height of 1,250 feet, was built in less than 14 months!

SRQ Security Breach

Sixties/seventies rocker and local resident Rick Derringer (of ‘Hang on Sloopy' and 'Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo' fame) is facing federal charges in Atlanta for carrying a loaded revolver in his carry-on bag during a January 9th flight from Cancun, Mexico to Atlanta…something he told a federal air marshal investigating the incident that he does on a regular basis – "30 to 50 times a year."

Derringer was on his way home to Sarasota – SRQ International – where his trip had originated on January 5th. This of course points to a breakdown of security here as well…in Sarasota, at the very airport where Air Force One sat on the tarmac on 9/11 as President Bush was addressing students at Booker Elementary School when he got word that the nation had been attacked by Islamic terrorists – some of whom we later learned had lived among us, planning and training for their attack right here in our community (several having attended flight training classes at Hoffman Aviation in Venice).

In an AP report, published last month in the Herald Tribune, SRQ Airport CEO Rick Piccolo is quoted as saying “The person who missed this in the screening (in Sarasota) was terminated.”

But if by Derringer’s own admission he has boarded 30-50 flights a year over multiple years with a loaded firearm and we logically assume that many if not most of those trips originated in his hometown of Sarasota, well, just how warm and fuzzy does that make you feel about our airport, and more generally the Transportation Security Administration’s efforts to secure air travel nationwide?

I was home that morning of 9/11. And living just three miles east of SRQ I felt our house shake as it never had before from the full throttle, tactical high angle ascent of Air Force One as it attempted to evade potential threats from the ground and air as the 747 rose up and banked steeply west, out over the gulf, destination unknown for a time, for all aboard and indeed, the entire nation.

We all recall the frightening events of that day. But also frightening is this security breach that continues the sad saga of our community’s association with the events that unfolded on that terrible day.

Siesta Sand
Author: Siesta Sand

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