SARASOTA – Sarasota Count smart-growth group Control Growth Now will celebrate its 25th Anniversary on March 15. Former Sarasota County Administrator Randall Reid will be honored as the CGN Citizen of the Year. Reid was hired to replace Jim Ley, who resigned in 2012 amid a massive purchasing scandal. Reid was lauded by citizens and good government activists as an open, honest and fair administrator who stood up for the citizens and the community – not just the privileged few.
|Former Sarasota County Administrator Randall Reid|
Reid seemed to go too far, however, taking on the development-driven special interests and demanding fiscal accountability and oversight in order to ensure that the government was being a good steward of taxpayer investments.
Reid was not on-board with developers who wanted to get rid of many restrictions on east county growth in Sarasota's 2050 plan and wanted to bring in an academic panel to review the plan's requirement that new development pay for itself, rather than be subsidized by existing taxpayers.
He was fired in 2013. Commissioners with strong ties to development were the strongest voices for his dismissal, citing "employee morale," while giving no concrete explanation for letting him go.
With Reid gone, it's been business as usual and Sarasota County has become strikingly-similar to Manatee. The county's planning commission – once filled with a diverse group of citizens – has (like Manatee's) been loaded with people whose income and wealth is tied to development. Not surprisingly, they've proven quite accommodating to builders.
Many of the same builders who curry influence with the Manatee County Commission are also major players in Sarasota with names like Pat Neal (Neal Communities), Carlos Beruff (Medallion Homes), Rex Jensen (Schroeder Manatee) and Randy Benderson (Benderson Development) among the top donors to the Sarasota BOCC. Those builders are heavily invested in east county real estate in and around Lakewood Ranch, on both sides of the county line. As such, they often need the compliance of both boards to get their way.
With leading state and local politicians calling for even weaker controls on development, CGN is more concerned than ever about increased traffic congestion, taxpayer subsidies of development and environmental harm. The group has created a six-point plan to counter these schemes, in order to protect the local community. They'd like to invite all smart-growth advocates and otherwise concerned citizens to join them in sharing information, discussing possible strategies and fighting to stem the tide of over-development.
The luncheon banquet will take place this Saturday, March 15, at 11:30 a.m. at Marina Jack's on the Sarasota waterfront. For tickets or more information on Control Growth Now, visit their website.
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