Sarasota News Leader

05/24/2013

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Sarasota News Leader May 24, 2013 OPINION was the only remaining member not yet committed. Then the nominations were closed and a vote was taken, with Atwell joining Snyder and Caragiulo in electing Snyder as mayor, and Shaw and Chapman voting for Shaw. With that important first vote, much was revealed about the prospects for the City Commission — and, by extension, the city itself — for the next two years: A voting bloc made up of Snyder, Caragiulo and Atwell could redefine how important issues in the city are dealt with in the immediate future. We have two significant concerns about this potential development. First, we never have liked the notion of commissioners having a "turn" at mayor. Admittedly, it is largely a ceremonial post, but it still makes the individual holding that office — for better or worse — the "face" of the city. Snyder, however, was not even next in line for the job. That would have been Vice Mayor Willie Shaw. In addition, Snyder never has impressed us as the intellectual pillar of the commission, nor has he the reputation of a philosopher. In fact, his term on the City Commission has been similar to Antonin Scalia's term on the U.S. Supreme Court: He often has something to say, but it typically is not awe-inspiring. For example, to preserve the Paul Rudolph-designed Building 4 at Sarasota High School, he suggested that students move back into the abandoned facility on Tamiami Trail, which is slated to become the Sarasota Museum of Art. Apparently, he was unaware of evolving Page 63 standards for public school facilities, which made the old campus wholly unsuitable. He also has fretted about the difficulty pedestrians have crossing Fruitville Road in downtown Sarasota. His proposed solution, for a vital traffic artery that is the principal east-west corridor feeding downtown and connecting to the north-south U.S. 41 corridor, is to taper the already narrow four-lane street to two lanes and add landscaping and other features to make it more resemble Main Street. This indicates he does not have sufficient expertise in traffic engineering to fully comprehend the concept of a "bottleneck" and its negative impact on traffic flow. But at least pedestrian movement across Fruitville would be eased, as people threaded their way between the many wrecks that would block the remaining two lanes. He also is the principal advocate on the City Commission for the city to end participation in the Community Redevelopment Area. He does not mind if the county continues to pour funding into the CRA; he just does not want the city to do so (and the county understandably is weighing whether to continue such a one-sided relationship). Downtown Sarasota will be the loser. With Snyder occupying the mayor's seat, we fear even more … ahem! … unconventional proposals. Even worse, the voting bloc of Snyder, Caragiulo and Atwell does not fill us with optimism about the city's progress in the next year.

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