Why Even Conservatives Want to Save the Celery Fields

Why Even Conservatives Want to Save the Celery Fields in Sarasota

The past seven or eight months have been quite a learning experience for me.

We hadn’t made it far into 2017 when I first heard of the plan to construct what amounts to a dump at the Celery Fields in Sarasota.

Now I am not what you would call an “activist.” Prior to 2017, you could count one hand the number of times you’d have spotted me holding a sign in a crowd. Some people enjoy it and would find a reason to do it every week if they could. I just don’t happen to be one of them.

Nor am I what you would call an “environmentalist.” This issue has become one of the growing number of issues for which I consider both sides of the argument to be less than honest and certainly not aboveboard.

Nor am I someone who believes in giving government even more control over our private lives. I regard the increasing incursion of the State into our individual liberties as a dangerous menace—one that was foreseen by the Founders and Framers, whose counsel on the issue we ignore to our own peril.

In other words, I’m not what you would call a “liberal,” at least not according to any modern definition of the word.

And yet, in 2017, I’ve signed petitions, gone to rallies, attended public hearings, and spoken out in a number of ways to ask Sarasota County to deny petitions to build on Celery Fields lands.

Knowing this, many casual observers might assume that they could accurately guess my political leanings.

And yet, over the last number of months, I’ve worked alongside card-carrying members of both of the major political parties, and many others who are harder to classify, politically speaking. Lifelong Republicans, tree-hugging environmentalist Democrats, frustrated independents, and members of other parties have aligned themselves to oppose these projects, most notably the one proposed by local developer turned public official, James Gabbert.

And this is how I have learned so much this year. Never before have I seen so many people willing to lay aside their cherished ideologies and work together with people who, in other circumstances, they’d probably vehemently oppose.

There’s an old saying about nothing being stronger than the heart of a volunteer, and that is what I’ve observed—and been humbled by—throughout this process.

I’ve watched people give up hundreds of hours of their time, sacrifice business opportunities, and risk embarrassment (or worse) to protect the Celery Fields. Business owners, former journalists, retirees, birders and wildlife enthusiasts of all ages, and—yes—people whose interest in activism has risen to levels deserving of the word, “professional,” have linked up with one another in a shocking display of heart.

Why?

It can only be because they care.

They care about beauty. They care about nature. They care about what sort of society we are creating. They care about what we do with Publicly-owned land. They care about our water supply and the health of estuaries and aquatic wildlife. They care about the birds and the beautiful habitat that’s been created over the last twenty-plus years, by accident or not. They care about preserving the peaceful serenity of the Palmer corridor, which only looks “industrial” on maps created during the Reagan Administration. They care about the two thousand homes—soon to exceed 2,600 with new developments going in—and the neighborhoods that have grown up around them. They care about Tatum Ridge Elementary School and the 700 students, not to mention the hardworking faculty and staff, just down the street.

And it’s been my honor to work alongside such caring people. Maybe in other circumstances and on other questions, the things we care about would find us disagreeing.

But after months of working alongside people of this quality, I must say I’m more inclined than ever to really listen and to try to understand where they’re coming from and to see if perhaps there aren’t better ways to solve our problems than the bitter public thrashings that seem to be the order of the day.

In other words, I care too—about the Celery Fields, sure—but more importantly, about the people I’ve come to know through this unique experience.

Tomorrow, we’ll hear from the County Commissioners. That means today we’re all busy making our final preparations. Regardless of the outcome, I want all of you to know how much I have grown to deeply respect and appreciate you. Thank you for the honor of working with you.

Learn How to Drive Through a Diverging Diamond

Learn How to Drive Through a Diverging Diamond

UPDATE (5/17/2017): FDOT has announced that the new traffic pattern will be implemented this Sunday, May 21, 2017. This does not mean the end of construction at the interchange, but we will begin using the “Diverging Diamond” pattern at that time.

 UPDATE (4/5/2017): FDOT has made the slides from the public workshop available for anyone to review who couldn’t make it in person. (Did you go? How was it? Let us know in the comments below!)

Late spring or early summer. That’s when we’ll all start using the new “diverging diamond” interchange at University Parkway & I-75.

But since a lot of people are still wondering how to drive through a diverging diamond, the Florida Department of Transportation has scheduled a couple of workshops for Tuesday, April 4th to explain how it works.

When: Tuesday, April 4 at either 2pm or 5pm

What: 90-minute workshop: “Navigating the Diverging Diamond Interchange”

Where: Everglades University, 6001 Lake Osprey Drive (map)

Why: To show us all how to drive through a diverging diamond.

File this under “mildly alarming,” but I’ve got a nagging question:

Why the Heck Will it Take 90 Minutes to Teach Us How to Drive Through a Diverging Diamond?

OK OK… the flyer says that first the first half hour, everyone will have a chance to review some exhibits and speak with FDOT staff (you’ve been itching to do that, haven’t you?!). Then there will be an “informative presentation,” followed by a Q&A session, which in my imagination will be filled with elderly people who don’t know how to use roundabouts asking the same question over and over in different ways.

So… maybe it won’t take that long to actually explain it.

After all, this nifty video does it in just under 8 minutes:

Hopefully it won’t take 8 minutes to get through this darned interchange once the construction finally ends!

But I’m not holding my breath…

Sarasota: The Best Place to Live in Florida

US News & World Report ranked Sarasota #21 on its list of the Best Places to Live in the United States. Citing our climate, beaches, and culture, the index placed Sarasota higher than the other Florida cities on the top 100 list, with Tampa coming in at 35 and Orlando at 40.

While it’s great to see publications recognize our “little big city” in this way, maybe it would be better to keep us a secret? Already, our “net migration” is at a 10. We’re feeling it in the traffic!

Help Preserve Sarasota’s Celery Fields

Sarasota’s Celery Fields are truly a local treasure—for nature lovers, bird watchers, fitness junkies, and outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds. But they are being threatened with dangerous industrial development that could destroy the natural habitat for local wildlife, not to mention the peace and tranquility of the area that we’ve all come to know and love.

I plan to participate in the protest this Saturday to help spread the word about the proposed development projects that could destroy the Celery Fields. I hope you’ll join me as well.

Hawkins Road Festival 2017

My family & I are definitely looking forward to the first-ever Hawkins Road Festival on Saturday, February 18th!

This looks like a truly unique community celebration for Sarasota, featuring music, art, spirituality, and social awareness. Oh… and food trucks. And stuff for kids.

Should be fun!

Congrats to Florida Fence!

Congratulations to Kevin and Theresa Dermody and the entire team at Florida Fence on joining the Grow The Dream family! We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to serve such a fantastic company.

Earlier today, the first piece of content our team produced for Kevin & Theresa went live on their website. It’s a piece that explains what an easement is and how it might affect the new fence you want to install.

I know our entire team is excited to be working with them and we’re looking to great results in the days ahead!

Preventing Zika Virus in Florida

Recent reporting from Kaiser Health News, WLRN & the Miami Herald reveals that

  • At least 55 pregnant women in Florida have tested positive for Zika Virus, all of whom were apparently infected while traveling outside the US
  • The number of cases of Zika virus transmission from Florida mosquitoes now stands at 15
  • At least one child has been born in Florida with microcephaly, one of the potential birth anomalies that has been tied to Zika virus.

See the article “Zika Is ‘Game-Changer’ For OB-GYN Doctors In Florida” for full details.

Obviously, the presence of Zika in Florida is troubling, and is provoking all sorts of response from the healthcare community as well as public officials.

Ways to Avoid Mosquito-Borne Illnesses

The inherent problem with much of the response being debated is that solutions like a “vaccine” will require significant time for research and trials to run their course, and then can be problematic in and of themselves.

In the absence of preventive measures from medicine, prevention of mosquito-borne illnesses like Zika virus comes down to just a few basic methods.

  1. Avoid Mosquitoes
  2. Repel Mosquitoes
  3. Prevent the Mosquitoes from Biting

The first 2 options are pretty obvious. To avoid mosquitoes, you can stay away from any areas of the State of Florida where standing water may be. In light of our recent weather, this will likely mean leaving the state altogether or just staying indoors. Repelling mosquitoes is a little bit more problematic, as products like DEET, which experts seem to agree is one of the most effective mosquito repellents, are more and more problematic as new research comes to light.

The 3rd option, however, is a new one. And it’s very intriguing.

A Sarasota, Florida company called Penta Five USA, LLC has developed a method that that apparently causes female mosquitoes to be repulsed at the thought of ingesting blood from mammals. Think of it as the mosquito equivalent of having your stomach turn at the thought of certain foods you can’t stand. The company claims that its product will have this affect on any mosquitoes within a certain radius of the location where their product is installed in any outdoor area.

Sarasota-based Good News Pest Solutions is the exclusive service provider for this product. Owner Dean Burnside can now be seen on local television touting the formula as all-natural (“organic” even!) and not harmful to the mosquitoes. It turns out that mosquitoes are natural pollinators (who knew?) and only the females bite mammals or crave blood at all, and then only when they have eggs to lay. When they encounter this product, they are said to be interested only in the fructose that they would normally ingest during pollination.

More details on the Mosquito Protection Program from Good News Pest Solutions can be found here.

NoBiteZones.com

Congratulations to our friends at Good News Pest Solutions on the launch of their new Mosquito Protection Program. Their new service actually changes the behavior of the mosquitoes within a certain radius, which prevents them from even wanting to bite humans or pets! Amazing!

No Soliciting: Should Candidates for Office Go Door-to-Door?

No Soliciting Sign - Photo: Marcus Quigmire via Flickr

He knocked on our door around mid-day on a quiet Saturday—something that almost never happens in our neighborhood.

Thankfully, I had the advantage of being able to see him through the glass panes of our front door. I knew several things about him at once: he wasn’t one of our neighbors or friends (any friends of ours would’ve called first, of course), he was well-groomed and neatly dressed (casual, but put-together), and bore all the outward signs of being a respectable human being.

But… as someone who takes the safety of his family very seriously, I know that outward appearances can be deceiving.

  • Does he have “pals” waiting in the bushes just beyond my view?
  • Is he a sex offender?
  • Is he here to see whether I have kids?
  • He can see through the glass panes just like I can… is he here to case the joint? Should I have a weapon when I approach the door?

Mind you… I live in a solidly middle-class suburban neighborhood. It’s not a gated community, so perhaps if he were here with some sort of evil or malicious intent, he might’ve chosen a different neighborhood.

And he might’ve chosen a weekday when we aren’t likely to be home.

But still… there are types (pedophiles, for example) that are looking for homes with kids when everyone is at home so they can see what conditions might be like.

I made sure I knew the whereabouts of everyone in my family, and then I opened the door and stepped partially out onto the stoop.

He greeted me with a warm smile, “Hi, I’m _______, and I’m running for _______”

I’m dropping the name and the exact local office he’s running for to protect the innocent… or guilty, as the case may be.

He offered me a flyer or brochure, I’m not sure which, because I wasn’t looking at it. My eyes were 100% on him… still trying to accurately assess the situation.

I cut him off mid-sentence. “Did you see the ‘No Soliciting’ sign at the entrance of the neighborhood?”

“Oh no… I didn’t notice that,” he said, almost sheepishly.

Maybe he did… maybe he didn’t. I’m not sure.

I proceeded to let him know that the sign is legally posted at the entrance to the subdivision and that we have it there for a reason.

The rest of the conversation was pretty brief. I don’t think I was rude to him, although I might’ve been. I certainly didn’t take the flyer he was offering.

Good Hustle, My Friend

Look… I appreciate the challenges that candidates for local office face. It’s hard to get the word out about your candidacy, your beliefs, your strengths, and all the other reasons why you believe you should be elected.

And I’ve gotta tell you, I truly respect the effort and the chutzpah that it takes to go door to door and introduce yourself to voters.

I’ve done plenty of cold-calling in my life… for business, for charitable work, for… you name it—face to face, on the phone, and even online.

Any time you approach an unwilling subject and interrupt their life, you know you’re going to get every kind of reaction known to mankind. And most of them will reject you. My hat is off to anyone who knowingly faces that and goes for it anyway.

Seriously… respect, my friend.

Were I in some sort of advisory role for a candidate like him (which I am not, for the record… not at the moment, at least), I might even suggest that door-to-door solicitation would be a smart move. It puts you in front of the voters, lets them see your face, look you in the eye, shake your hand, and hear from you—straight from the horse’s mouth—why you’re running and what you have to offer.

I mean… even if the voters don’t agree with your positions, you will benefit from a simple human dynamic that we know makes a difference on election day: people vote for candidates with which they are familiar.

This guy was a nice enough guy… at least as much as I could gather from the 20-second conversation we had as I eyed him warily on my front porch.

And he was smart enough to walk straight down my driveway, get into his vehicle (yes, I noted the make, model & color—not that I really needed to… after all, he introduced himself by name), and drive right out of the neighborhood.

I looked him up after he left. He’s a family man. He’s got to understand the difficulties faced by someone like me who wonders exactly who it is that has marched right up to my front door.

But all of those factors that are in his favor can’t overcome one simple fact: any subdivision with a “No Soliciting” sign is off limits.

The sign serves as legal notice, so any law enforcement officer (or judge, if it got that far) would not accept the “I didn’t notice it” excuse.

If you’re going door-to-door, it is incumbent upon you to know whether you’re legally allowed to solicit in that neighborhood or not.

“Well I’m Not Selling Anything”

Fair enough. There are specific Florida statutes (501.022, for example), that regulate the behavior of commercial solicitors.

I’m not an attorney, and I haven’t researched any case law where political candidates are concerned. So… I could be wrong about the specific legality of the actions of my unnamed new friend.

However, there are also Florida statutes (102.031, for example) that regulate the behavior of people involved in conducting elections, and that particular subchapter specifically uses the term “solicit” to refer to the action of “soliciting” votes (although it specifically deals with actions that occur at polling places).

So… our “No Soliciting” sign could clearly be construed to apply to people soliciting votes. We don’t, after all, specify the type & nature of the solicitation.

Regardless of whether or not a Court would find that a political candidate soliciting votes had violated the law by ignoring a “No Soliciting” sign, the voters themselves might find it pretty easy to believe that the candidate had broken the law.

And after all… do you want to vote for someone who ignores the law (or at the very least, your stated wishes) in the very act of soliciting your vote?

I don’t think so.

For the record: I may or not find myself casting a vote for this guy on election day. It remains to be seen. I haven’t evaluated him nor his opponent(s), as of yet.

As for the matter of him coming to my door? I’m going to withhold judgment on that particular issue as I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt over whether he actually saw the sign or not. For now. Especially since he did the right thing and immediately left the neighborhood after we spoke.

But if you’re a candidate for office, you would certainly do well to notice the signs at the entrance of any subdivision you enter. Others might not be so kind.

Photo: Marcus Quigmire via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

WordCamp Miami 2016: Day Two

WordCamp Miami 2016 - Day Two

My wonderful, gorgeous wife, Jill, and I arrived on campus at Florida International University for day 2 of WordCamp Miami 2016… just in time to enjoy another round of bagels & coffee from Einstein Brothers Bagels.

After the opening remarks, we got our dose of Cain & Obenland in the Morning, which was a riot.

A highlight of the “Morning Show” was when they brought in Mark Jaquith for an interview.

Their final segment on WordPress news was fun. Some of the tidbits they shared about what’s happening with WordPress Core were exciting, including the fact that we’ll soon be saying goodbye to the “Bleak Screen of Sadness™”

Jill and I stayed together for the first session of the morning, and we caught “Bootstrapping Your WordPress Business – Going from 0 to 10 Employees” with Scott Mann, who runs Highforge, an agency in Central Florida. Scott started with a compelling story about smoke jumper Wagner “Wag” Dodge and a famous firefighting incident at Mann Gulch which resulted in an on-the-spot innovation that continues to be used by firefighters today.

The point: when you’re bootstrapping your business, you’ll probably need to keep replacing your straps, because they’re going to get burned off!

Scott’s session ran the gamut from tools you can use as you bootstrap to finding and hiring the right talent and even when and how to raise your rates. Very practical. If you own a business and you’re bootstrapping and trying to grow, check out his slides or catch the replay if you can.

Next, Jill headed off to the “All Users” track, and I stuck around for “Product Marketing Tips for Commercial Plugins” with Chris Lema.  While he was specifically focused on developers who are selling premium WordPress plugins, his actual talk contained a ton of useful tactics for any business.

 

The Afternoon

The Business track that the organizers put together for today has turned out to be utterly fantastic.

A very pleasant surprise was the panel discussion which featured Brett Cohen, co-founder of emagine, Karim Marucchi, CEO of Crowd Favorite Andrew Norcross, founder of Reaktiv Studios, and Kimberly Lipari, COO, Valet.  The listed topic was, “How to Scale Your Business,” and the discussion was incredibly real and authentic. Most of all, it was really valuable.