Sarasota News Leader

08/09/2013 & 08/16/2013

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Sarasota News Leader August 9 & 16, 2013 OPINION TIME TO GET SERIOUS​ Page 91 CRA. And as shown in the documents provided to the committee by City of Sarasota Senior ​ his change could not have happened at a Planner Steve Stancel, such public-private T worse time. In 2004, the financial roses were partnerships can prove extremely lucrative in full bloom with no wilting in sight. CRA in the long term. funds were at a level that would have been I considered unbelievably high only a few years ​ n 2003, the CRA provided almost $5 million earlier. It seemed a good time to set every- to lure a Whole Foods grocery store downtown. The property was appraised then at $3.2 thing "in stone." million. Today it is on the books for $57.4 milS ​ ince then the annual CRA revenue level has lion, and Whole Foods has paid $6.6 million in plummeted. The pot now serves as a life-sav- property taxes. ing cash cow for the City of Sarasota. With a plan frozen in time at the peak of the boom, EXECUTIVE SUMMARY GOVERNANCE there was every excuse to say, "Not enough E money now" to keep funding those general ​ very complex document given to a decifund expenses. However, the plan (the '04 sion-maker contains an executive summary. It Downtown Master Plan) remains untouched is rarely longer than a single page, even if the document it covers runs 100 pages or more. by the economic rollercoaster. Neither the city nor the county commission​ or example, the plan contains the "cultural ers in Sarasota have personal aides to read F district master plan" for the Van Wezel Per- and digest extensive reports. Therefore, the forming Arts Hall's expansive parking lot. It commissioners are often left to depend on exincludes buildings for a number of local cul- ecutive summaries to assist them in making tural icons, a parking garage, retail space and complex decisions. restaurants and more — all to be undertaken A ​ s a rule, you can tell who has read an entire through public-private partnerships. document, because that person asks detailed It was believed, when the plan was completed, questions. For those who did not, their dis​ that such spending would enhance Sarasota's cussion of an issue is often superficial. At the claim as the home of unique cultural assets. In end of the CRA extension committee's term, today's environment, without additional pub- somebody is going to write a report and an lic comment, it is hard to believe the Coun- executive summary. ty Commission would stomach a multi-year, T multi-million dollar investment in cultural ​ his story is already longer than most executive summaries, and it has not touched on a "bricks and mortar." host of real questions about the singular issue: Y ​ et that is exactly what the CRA is supposed Should the CRA's lifespan be extended? If yes, to do, as the committee has heard. The plan for how long? And how should the money be should use public-private partnerships to spent — on police salaries or public-private leverage the incremental financing of the partnerships? %

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