Posts

Backlash for 3 Sarasota commissioners on Stand Your Ground Vote

Frances Rice, a Sarasota resident, is outraged at three Sarasota City Commissioners who voted to pass a resolution which calls for the repeal of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law.

“This will result in the denial of our Second Amendment right under the U.S. Constitution,” states retired Army Lt. Colonel Frances Rice, who is pursuing avenues for initiating a petition to recall Sarasota City Vice Mayor Willie Shaw, Commissioner At-Large Suzanne Atwell and Commissioner At-Large Susan Chapman (see photos and contact information at the end of this column).

“I was inspired by the successful recall of Colorado Senate President John Morse and state Sen. Angela Giron,” Colonel Rice said.  “They were ousted from office after they abridged the Second Amendment right of the citizens of Colorado with a draconian and unconstitutional gun-control law.”  She went on to say that “it is unconscionable that Vice Mayor Shaw and Commissioners Atwell and Chapman are now using their elected office as a vehicle for abridging the Second Amendment rights of the citizens of Sarasota.”

Colonel Rice further stated that Vice Mayor Shaw and Commissioners Atwell and Chapman have “misrepresented Florida’s Stand Your Ground self-defense law as a gun law when it is not.  This law contains absolutely no references to guns or shooting.”  According to Rice the self-defense, self-protection law has four key components:

1.    It establishes that law-abiding residents and visitors may legally presume there is a threat of bodily harm or death from anyone who breaks into a residence or occupied vehicle.  Law-abiding citizens and visitors may, in these circumstances, use defensive force, including deadly force, against the intruder.

2.    In any other place where the law-abiding resident or visitor “has a right to be,” that person has “no duty to retreat” if attacked.   The law-abiding resident or visitor may “meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another, or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”

3.    In either case, a law-abiding resident or visitor using the force permitted by the law is immune from criminal prosecution or civil action.  The law-abiding resident or visitor cannot be arrested, unless a law enforcement agency determines there is probable cause that the force used was unlawful.

4.    If a civil action is brought and the court finds the law-abiding resident or visitor (the defendant) to be immune based on the parameters of the law, the law-abiding resident or visitor (the defendant) will be awarded all costs of defense.

Rice points to two articles which address how African Americans are affected by Florida’s Stand Your Ground self-defense law:  “How Black Leaders Exploit Their People for Political and Financial Gain” by Gary DeMar and “Five Myths of the ‘Racist’ Criminal Justice System” by Larry Elder.

“Neither Vice Mayor Shaw nor Commissioners Atwell and Chapman called for a repeal of Florida’s self-defense law when a white man in Tampa, David James, was killed by a black man, Trevor Dooley, and Trevor Dooley invoked the self-defense law in his defense.  An article is posted on the Internet which provides additional analysis is entitled “George Zimmerman & Trevor Dooley: Stand Your Ground Hypocrisy?” by Lee Stranahan,” notes Rice.

Rice states, “Not one word was said by Vice Mayor Shaw or Commissioners Atwell and Chapman when, in Jacksonville, the NAACP advocated the use of Florida’s self-defense law in support of a black woman, Marissa Danielle Alexander, who claimed self-defense against an abusive husband.  The details about this case can be found in an article entitled ‘NAACP weighs in on what they say is a ‘Stand Your Ground’ case against Jacksonville woman‘ by Charles Broward.”

Rice notes, “Yet, Vice Mayor Shaw and Commissioners Atwell and Chapman have now roused themselves and passed a resolution to repeal Florida’s Stand Your Ground self-defense law when their action will have no effect other than to deny the citizens of Sarasota their Second Amendment rights.”

Mayor Shannon Snyder and Commissioner District 2 Paul Caragiulo voted against the resolution. Mayor Snyder spoke in full support of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law and the duty of elected officials to protect the Second Amendment right of the citizens of Sarasota.

Colonel Rice opined that “Vice Mayor Shaw and Commissioners Atwell and Chapman should be held accountable for their blatant abuse of power and malfeasance by being recalled from office.”

Two City Commissioners are already backtracking on their vote to repeal Stand Your Ground. Susan Chapman said,”We didn’t vote to repeal Stand Your Ground. We voted to revisit it.” Suzanne Atwell said her support for the vice-mayor’s plan should be seen as agreeing to have “a conversation about a highly charged issue.” The repeal was listed in the City Commission’s document titled Revised Final 2014 Legislative Priorities. The revised priorities state, “The City Commission requests that the State Legislature repeal the Stand Your Ground statute and establish a more civil approach to governance than afforded under the current statute.” [Emphasis added]

To view the results of this survey as a pie chart click here.

UPDATE: According to the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA), “Yesterday, the Sarasota City Commission met with the Sarasota County Legislative Delegation to present the city’s list of legislative priorities.  One of those priorities requested the legislative delegation to work to repeal Florida’s ‘Stand your Ground’ statute. Fortunately, the four legislators attending this meeting disagreed with the city commission and oppose repealing the ‘Stand your Ground’ statute.”

EDITORS NOTE: The City of Sarasota is governed by a “Commission – Manager” form of government. There are five City Commissioners, two are elected at-large and three are elected from single-member districts. All elections are nonpartisan.

Mayor Shannon Snyder

Mayor Shannon Snyder
District Three
1565 1st Street, Room 101
Sarasota, FL 34236
Phone: (941) 954-4115
Email: Shannon.Snyder@sarasotagov.com

Commissioner Willie Shaw

Vice-Mayor Willie Shaw
District One
1565 1st Street, Room 101
Sarasota, FL 34236
Phone: (941) 954-4115
Email: Willie.Shaw@sarasotagov.com

Commissioner Suzanne Atwell

Commissioner Suzanne Atwell
At-Large
1565 1st Street, Room 101
Sarasota, FL 34236
Phone: (941) 954-4115
Email: Suzanne.Atwell@sarasotagov.com

Commissioner Paul Caragiulo

Commissioner Paul Caragiulo
District Two
1565 1st Street, Room 101
Sarasota, FL 34236
Phone: (941) 954-4115
Email: Paul.Caragiulo@sarasotagov.com

Commissioner Susan Chapman

Commissioner Susan Chapman
At-Large
1565 1st Street, Room 101
Sarasota, FL 34236
Phone: (941) 954-4115
Email: Susan.Chapman@sarasotagov.com

City of Sarasota, FL promotes “kiddie porn” parody?

The City of Sarasota, FL owns and operates the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, which has a budget of over $8.8 million. On April 23, 2013 at 8:00 p.m. 50 Shades: The Musical will be performed. 50 Shades: The Musical is a parody of the controversial erotic book 50 Shades of Grey.

According to Larry Allen, Sarasota County Communication Office, “Sarasota County provided grant funding in the amount of $76,468 to the Arts and Cultural Alliance through the Tourist Development Tax. The Alliance provides funding to the Van Wezel for program series. A  list of prospective show offerings was provided in the grant application process on March, 2012. 50 Shades of Grey was not on the list provided on that date.” [My emphasis]

In August of 2012, the Ulsterman Report posted a letter from a person with “20 years with Child Protective Services.” The author of the letter writes, “Yes, 50 Shades is pornography. Like most pornography, the story line is weak, the characters one-dimensional, while the sex itself graphic, detailed, but formulaic. The underlying theme to 50 Shades is something far more sinister and appalling though than your mere run-of-the-mill porn. It is pedophilia. It is child porn. Kiddie porn.” [My emphasis]

According to the letter writer, “I didn’t seek out 50 Shades of Grey. It was brought to my attention by a longtime friend who is also a clinical psychologist at a university. She’s a bit older than me. She grew up in the counter culture era and did her fair share of experimentation of all kinds.  So she’s hardly a prude. What she today though is a mother and grandmother. And she’s smart. One of the things that fascinates her is this age of cultural phenomena.  How due to technology things now spread so quickly throughout society and become the next big thing at an increasingly rapid pace. She says sometimes this phenomena is pretty much harmless, and other times it can be very damaging to kids and or adults who begin to emulate something out of a need to belong to the ‘next big thing’.”

According to Mary Bensel, Executive Director of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, 50 Shades is the next big thing.

Mary Bensel, Executive Director of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall

During a telephone interview Bensel pointed out that the musical is getting rave reviews everywhere it plays. There is a video on the Van Wezel website with patrons (the musical is restricted to those over 18 years old) saying how funny 50 Shades is. But is sexual abuse funny?

Bensel stated she has both read the book 50 Shades of Grey and viewed 50 Shades: The Musical in New York.

When asked if she believed the book 50 Shades of Grey was pornographic Bensel stated, “I have no opinion.” On the phone call was Julia Mays, Director of Marketing for the Van Wezel, who portrayed the book 50 Shades of Grey as a “love story”.

E.L. James, author 50 Shades of Grey

According to Wikipedia, “Fifty Shades of Grey is a 2011 erotic romance novel by British author E. L. James. It is the first installment in the Fifty Shades trilogy that traces the deepening relationship between a college graduate, Anastasia Steele, and a young business magnate, Christian Grey. It is notable for its explicitly erotic scenes featuring elements of sexual practices involving bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, and sadism/masochism (BDSM).” [My emphasis]

Bensel stated that the Van Wezel paid about $10,000 for the musical and has sold $27,424 in tickets. Sex sells and sexual abuse sells even better?

When asked if anyone from the Van Wezel staff reviewed the lyrics or screen play the answer was “no, that is not our job.” A call was placed to David Freeland, Senior Booking Manager with the Broadway Booking Office, NYC, who is the agent for 50 Shades: The Musical to get a copy of the screen play. Freeland has not return our call as of the publishing of this column.

As the Ulsterman Report letter writer states, “Sexual predators are cons. They almost always have a cover. It’s that cover which allows them access. 50 Shades of Grey is a con. It now has access to millions of readers. It is a story about abuse from beginning to end. And it’s not just the abuse of a man and a woman – it’s the abuse of a man and a girl.”

Bensel’s con is the book and musical are popular, thereby justifying its booking. She also noted that 50 Shades: The Musical and Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody have been booked by other Florida performing arts halls including: The Lakeland Center, Broward Center and Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Center in Fort Myers, FL.

Senator Marco Rubio has made it his mission to stop human trafficking, including the sex trafficking of children in Florida. Perhaps Senator Rubio should visit the Sarasota City Hall when he comes to Sarasota on March 15th and make the Commissioners understand the problem? Please watch this video interview with Senator Rubio where he states “awareness is critical”:

UPDATE:

WDW received the following email sent to the Sarasota City Commissioners:

Dear Commissioners:

Many Adult Ordinances passed in the city of Sarasota, an Ordinance No. 97-4015 was adopted on the 2nd reading on the 15th June 1998 but was amended by Ordinance 98-4073 & passed Dec. 7. 1998. Another amendment to the Adult Ordinance 99-4165 passed Nov. 15, 1999.  Most of the changes were made to strengthen the Ordinances to make them more enforceable.

I would think that these ordinances would prohibit any kind of pornographic performance at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall based on this evaluation of 50 Shades of Grey planned to be performed on April 23, 2013.

As a former Director of Florida Family Association for Sarasota/Manatee County, our organization was very much involved with all the Adult Ordinances for the city & County of Sarasota as well as Manatee.

Therefore, I would appreciate knowing what the city of Sarasota plans to do with this performance.

Esther Rachwal
Sarasota, Fl. 

Perhaps the Van Wezel should be issued an Adult Use Permit?

RELATED COLUMN: Police chief: If you don’t curb porn, number of sex crimes will rise

Panhandling is the new normal in the City of Sarasota, Florida

Christian Ziegler wrote in an email, “It’s a true shame to see the City of Sarasota, at the expense of our tourism, local economy & city’s image, bow down to the ACLU in order to avoid a possible lawsuit.”

“As a person who works in and frequents downtown Sarasota on a daily basis, I have personally witnessed the spike in vagrant activity since the City Commission began taking away the tools that the local police use to fight the issue. I believe this is an issue the City Commission and local police should stand tough & work together to fight, not give-in, even if the city is being threatened by a lawsuit from the ACLU!” states Ziegler.

Ziegler has received hundreds of responses to his email, most supportive. The following are from City of Sarasota residents:

Mr. Ziegler,

I have more than just a single reason to move away from our beautiful Sarasota, and if I were younger I would stay and fight the ACLU, and get the bums out of our library. I was so turned off by the street people being allowed to wander around inside the library last summer that I began plans to move that same day. Sarasota is a beautiful city, but it needs some tough new leadership, and right now the wishy washy look the other way is not helping anybody. A shame for such an otherwise beautiful city to be headed to hell in a hand basket. I had planned to be here until I die, but now will die in Colorado instead. I am moving there into a home I just bought. 

Respectfully,

Dear Christian,

I own a small business and work downtown too. I avoid certain streets because I know they are hangout spots for vagrants. I used to walk to the post office to drop off any mailings, I don’t anymore.

I am very disappointed in our city’s commission poor decision, inability to stand up for our citizens over a counter culture that brings our city down, and they have made a mockery of our police department. I’ve watched these vagrants approach diners and ask for food or money at Cie La Vie. Okay so they have rights and freedom of speech. What about OUR rights as business owners, citizens and visitors?

There are numerous programs already in place in Sarasota where they can get assistance. These people that hangout in the parks all day do not want help. They are fine with the station they have assumed and this is their lifestyle. They know that they can now keep doing what they are doing and not get hassled. And now more will come.

I know where my vote is going March 12th and it will not be a liberal.

Thank you,

Lee Williams from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports, “The City of Sarasota and the American Civil Liberties Union have signed a consent decree that stops police from “interfering with the exercise of First Amendment rights” when dealing with the homeless. The decree, a 60-day injunction, prohibits police from interfering with panhandlers — someone standing on a sidewalk soliciting assistance — unless they impede traffic, pedestrians or create an unsafe situation.”

Panhandlers are becoming more viable and aggressive within the City of Sarasota. Citizens have complained and yet the current City Commissioners have decided that panhandling is a free speech right.

Williams reports, “The consent decree follows the arrest of Jon Hill, a homeless man who was arrested of panhandling on U.S. 301. Hill was injured during his arrest, which he and his attorneys claim was the result of officers slamming his face into a squad car. The arresting officers say he intentionally threw himself forward during a struggle, striking his head on their squad car window.”

Hill spent five days in jail, until the ACLU got him released by filing an emergency petition — a writ of habeas corpus.

This may become a wedge issue in the March 12,  2013 Sarasota City Commission election.

Watch this “Voting for Dummies” video done by Politically Personal:

City of Sarasota accused of violating Florida anti-trust law

city of sarasota logo

Government contracting has become a major sticking point in Sarasota County, Florida and now at the City of Sarasota Commission level. Sarasota County government has had problems within its contracting process. Staff was allowed to operate in a manner that brought discredit upon the County Commissioners. The County has lost not only their administrator but the confidence of the people. In March 2011 former County employee Rodney Gene Jones was arrested for accepting bribes from contractors. Jones was arrested under the Florida Anti-Trust Act of 1980.

Whenever our elected officials become too dependent on staff and committees bad things can and usually do happen. Fast forward to today. Are we seeing a repeat of what happened at the county level with the City of Sarasota? The filing of a complaint involving Minder & Associates Engineering Corporation may give us a clue.John C. Minder P. E., P. S. M., President of Minder & Associates Engineering Corporation, has been a Registered Professional Engineer in six states including Florida and a Registered Professional Surveyor & Mapper in two states including Florida. John has lived in Sarasota County for thirty years.Recently John submitted a routine proposal to the City of Sarasota. His proposal was ultimately denied, which is fine until John began checking into how his bid was scored and who scored it. What got John’s interest was an anonymous letter he received about possible staff malfeasance on a county contract due to improper scoring.

John submitted a formal complaint to the City Commissioners.  In his complaint John states, “It is our professional opinion that the … scoring of points out of a possible 100 points was arbitrary and capricious by two of the Engineering Technicians on the Selection Committee.”

The complaint points out, “Although we are not trained investigators it is our professional opinion there appears to be collusion between the scoring of points by Engineering Technician’s Proposer No. 1 and Proposer No. 5 of 66.5 points or at a minimum a lack of professional qualifications to be on the Selection Committee. It is also our professional opinion that there is some sort of a connection between Bayside Engineering, Inc. of Tampa, FL and some members of the Selection Committee.”

The complaint concludes, “Our appeal to the City of Sarasota, FL City Commissions of the violation of CHAPTER 542 OF THE FLORIDA ANTITRUST ACT OF 1980 includes the arbitrary and capricious scoring of points by some of the members of the Professional Review Selection Committee. Some members of the Professional Review Selection Committee were not Registered Professional Engineers but they were reviewing the qualifications of Registered Professional Engineers when they were not qualified Registered Professional Engineers.”

Minder & Associates Engineering Corporation requested signed notarized statements of the professional opinions of each member of the Selection Committee in their ranking of Minder & Associates Engineering Corporation based on the written Proposal submitted by Minder & Associates Engineering Corporation.Deputy City Administrator Marlon Brown acknowledged John Minder’s information request and provided all information requested except for the notarized statements. Marlon in an April 20, 2012 e-mail to John stated, “As shared with you when you met with me, I stated that our policy did not require that a written and notarized reason from each committee member as to why you were not chosen or short-listed be provided. You stated that this would help you with future proposals. I understood that but I did not feel comfortable doing as you requested. As a courtesy, I shared with you that I would check with the City Attorney’s Office to see if they agreed or disagreed with providing the information. I have done that and unfortunately, the City Attorney agrees that this should not be done. I also shared with you that if you had a problem with our procurement policy that you have the right to share those concerns with the City Commission at any Commission meeting under citizens’ input or you can do so when we bring the revisions to the policy to the City Commission (date to be determined). Sorry that we could not be of further assistance. Have a great weekend.”John did appear before the City Commission and made them aware of his concerns. According to Deputy City Administrator Brown one request for proposal was in fact cancelled because of John’s showing that the specifications were flawed. Marlin also said that no evidence of any collusion or special treatment in this particular bid was found.

Mayor Suzanne Atwell has spoken of an accountable City of Sarasota, FL and City Staff. In the Minder & Associates Engineering Corporation case answering their request was a first step in accountability and transparency. It is fitting and proper for elected officials to be highly sensitive to the citizens they represent.

Citizens like John, you and I must be constantly vigilant of government, its hired staff and appointed committee members colluding to give special treatment to any firm. As government becomes more elitist and arrogant so do staff and appointed committee members. At times it seems staff and committees run roughshod over citizens and businesses without proper oversight by elected officials.

It is the duty of elected city and county officials to protect the property rights of citizens, not abuse them. Accountable means to the people, period.