Also, city shoots down elected mayor idea, likely eliminating possible Siesta Key commission seat
By John Morton
A redistricting shake-up on the state front could assist Save Siesta Key’s desire for incorporation, as two members of the Sarasota County Legislative Delegation who voted in opposition will no longer have votes.
District 71’s Will Robinson, who chaired the delegation, will now be limited to western Manatee County representation. His current map extends all the way to include the northern tip of Siesta Key.
District 73’s Tommy Gregory, meanwhile, has announced he is moving from eastern Sarasota County — which is now in the heart of District 74 — to Lakewood Ranch in eastern Manatee County to run for the redrawn District 72.
It will allow him to avoid running against fellow Republican James Buchanan, who represents District 74 and was the third delegation member to cast a no vote against Save Siesta Key. The 3-3 tie killed the bill in January.
The new district maps were approved by the Florida Supreme Court in March. They go into effect in November.
Will the departure of Robinson and Gregory help turn the tide?
“I’m hopeful,” said state Sen. Joe Gruters when asked about the future of Siesta Key’s incorporation bid at the April 7 meeting of the SRQ Tiger Bay Club.
The inquiry came from Save Siesta Key board member Tracy Jackson.
Gruters was one of four Sarasota County legislators who spoke during the club’s annual legislative update panel discussion. Joining Gruters were Robinson, Gregory, and state Rep. Fiona McFarland.
Gruters, McFarland (the bill’s sponsor), and state Rep. Michele Rayner voted yes.
Siesta Key, now mostly in District 72, will soon belong to District 73 where McFarland will have exclusive representation.
City makes mayor decision
Meanwhile, a recent decision by the city of Sarasota’s commissioners to not go with a “strong-mayor” form of government may have further diminished the potential of Siesta Key considering annexation into the city.
In January, a few days after the failed incorporation vote, Sarasota Mayor Erik Arroyo said he’d ask Siesta leaders to consider joining the city. In February, representatives from the Key’s four most influential non-profits met with Arroyo for what Save Siesta Key chairman Tim Hensey called a very general, preliminary discussion. This, despite the fact the incorporation group had said it had no interest in such an idea and planned to immediately try for incorporation a second time. No follow-up meetings between Siesta and the city have taken place.
The city’s mill rate of 3.13 was among the reasons for doubt. Save Siesta Key’s proposal that was shot down called for a .25 mill rate – a staggering difference for taxpayers.
Then, the city commission on March 28 voted 4-1 to keep its existing government structure in place, rejecting a recommendation by a charter review committee to instead have a mayor elected separately by the populace. The mayor currently serves as one of five elected commissioners – three by district and two at-large – and is selected annually by a vote among the five who have seats.
Had the elected mayor suggestion been approved for a referendum vote and then passed, there was speculation that a commission spot could be made available and possibly even earmarked for a Siesta Key representative, if indeed annexation took place.
(Jane Bartnett contributed to this report.)