Tag Archives: 11-06-2013

Revised election results for 3 cities, including absentee ballots as of Nov. 7

Holmes Beach commissioner FINAL
(following recount)
Voters 1,189, absentee 325

  • Pat Morton    753
  • David Zaccagnino    651
  • Jean Peelen    648   
  • Carol Soustek    635
  • C. Melissa Williams    417

Anna Maria commissioner FINAL
Total voters 480, absentee 154

  • Carol Carter     310
  • Doug Copeland    333
  • Dale Woodland    320
  • Michael Jawarski    227

Anna Maria charter changes passed, 242 votes

Bradenton Beach commissioner FINAL
Total voters 281, absentee 67

  • Janie Robertson    154
  • Ric Gatehouse    124

Bradenton Beach mayor FINAL

  • Bill Shearon    149
  • John Shaughnessy    132

Election results for 3 cities, including absentee ballots

Anna Maria commissioner FINAL

Total voters 480, absentee 154

  • Doug Copeland: 333
  • Carol Carter: 310
  • Dale Woodland: 320
  • Michael Jawarski: 227

Anna Maria charter changes passed, 242 votes

Bradenton Beach commissioner FINAL

Total voters 281, absentee 67

  • Janie Robertson: 154
  • Ric Gatehouse: 124

Bradenton Beach mayor FINAL

  • Bill Shearon: 149
  • John Shaughnessy: 132

Holmes Beach commissioner RECOUNT REQUIRED

Voters: 1,191, absentee 325

  • Pat Morton: 753
  • David Zaccagnino: 650
  • Jean Peelen: 648
  • Carol Soustek: 638
  • C. Melissa Williams: 417

Editorial Elect Choices

Making choices

  • Anna Maria: Dale Woodland, Carol Carter and Michael Jaworski
  • Bradenton Beach: Janie Robertson, Bill Shearon
  • Holmes Beach: Pat Morton, C. Melissa Williams, David Zaccagnino

Anna Maria voters face a tough decision: Four good candidates are seeking to serve the city and there are only three seats to fill.

Commissioner Dale Woodland has served the city well, and while it may seem he comes to a point from a long distance, he eventually gets there.

Newly appointed Commissioner Doug Copeland was at first reluctant to step onto the dais, but it seems he’s found a comfort zone. His longtime public service on volunteer boards is admirable and it should continue.

Carol Carter also put her name in the ring for the appointed seat, but stepped aside. Now she wants to serve, and her past experience in management and fundraising could be a great asset to the commission and to the city.

And along comes political newcomer Michael Jaworski, also ready to serve and give back to the city he loves. He brings a refreshing sense of logic and street smarts that would serve the city well.

The voters can’t go wrong, but we like the combination of strengths offered by Woodland, Carter and Jaworski.

Bradenton Beach doesn’t have such easy choices. Of two candidates for one seat on the commission, and two for mayor, all have served the city.

And all have served well.

It seems former Commissioner Janie Robertson is frustrated from being on the outside at city hall, and she now realizes, so is the public. For too many years, the city has quashed public opinion and charged through issues by relying on staff and its attorney.

That’s where former Commissioner Bill Shearon comes in. He promises to bring city government back to the people, and to administer the government.

While we’re pleased that Mayor John Shaughnessy has had great success with obtaining pier repair funds in the past week, it’s been business as usual for too long.

It’s time both the city and its staff had a manager.

Incumbent Commissioner Ric Gatehouse was appointed to fill Robertson’s seat almost two years ago when no one stepped up to run for office from Ward 3.

He’s made a positive impression with logical ideas and progress on some issues, but we think he erred on the cell tower.

The former ordinance and the contract crafted by one of the country’s leading cellular communication companies went shamefully by the wayside largely because Gatehouse misconstrued and criticized the terms.

We recommend a vote for Robertson and Shearon in Bradenton Beach.

My momma said…

My mom, like just about everyone’s mom, told us kids if we had nothing nice to say, say nothing at all. I used the same advice with my children.

I took her advice to heart. Still do. But I also believe in putting the truth on the table.

The election in Holmes Beach took a sour turn in the past few weeks, and spelling out the circumstances is the only way to explain it.

It’s the first time in almost 22 years of newspapers and annual elections that I’ve seen partisan-style, angry and twisted political tactics and attacks enter our municipal races.

I suppose it got its start with last year’s election, which saw a pack of candidates rise up to defeat three incumbents on a platform of curtailing rental homes and tourism. Regulations were revved up and enforcement was stepped up, but it was rental agents putting their best practices to work that really had a positive effect.

City spending is up … way up. But much of it flies under the radar of the commission. The body of government that legislates now bows to the whim of the mayor, whose job should be to carry out the commission’s whims.

Just as this year’s elections kicked off, there was rumbling.

We heard the mayor and Commissioner Marvin Grossman — both just one year into their political jobs — were on the outs.

Then Grossman said he wanted Commissioner David Zaccagnino out, although he almost always was on the down side of a 4-1 vote. Grossman wanted harmony.

Hold that thought.

Grossman’s wife, a seasoned Democratic party campaigner, inserted herself in the campaign, solicited a candidate to target Zaccagnino at the polls and Marvin Grossman threw his support to the newcomer in the hopes of ousting the 8-year seated commissioner.

On learning that Zaccagnino had inquired to the city attorney — a discreet and proper inquiry — about the Grossmans’ properties and a possible improper homestead exemption, the Grossmans went on the attack.

The attorney told the mayor, who, with his assistant and the police chief, launched an inquiry, followed by a public memo detailing the Grossmans’ personal information.

The mayor’s public airing of the matter became fuel for their fury and the campaign. Instead of directing their wrath at the administration, they worked a political angle.

The fact the Grossmans had a proper homestead was easily determined by a call to the property appraiser’s office. The matter did not need to be addressed further.

So along comes old-style partisan party politics to nonpartisan Anna Maria Island, while in past years, the island’s seated commissioners only campaigned for, not against colleagues.

Commissioner Judy Titsworth, meanwhile, stacked up in favor of another incumbent, 10-year Commissioner Pat Morton. That left incumbent Jean Peelen, seemingly, to fend for herself.

Peelen had a contemptuous start three years ago and some questionable communications before she lapsed last year in a public attack on the wrong builder — literally. It resulted in a libel suit that remains in the courts, and lacking an apology to the intended subject for her mistruths and a lack of contrition, we don’t recommend a vote for her.

Meanwhile, politics came to The Islander’s Popcorn & Politics Oct. 25 event, where the game changed to soliciting votes to tip the scales on the straw poll.

Well, that’s not how we play the game on Anna Maria Island. At least, I hope not.

Marvin Grossman has a better handle on city issues than he does on politics, and he’s not on the ballot this year.

And so you and the Grossmans don’t get me wrong, I love Jane and enjoy frequent discussions with Marvin. I just think this situation went sideways, and it’s likely a defensive reaction that went too far.

Zaccagnino has done an honorable and diligent job for the city, watching over spending and the employee pension plans through tough times, among other attributes. There’s no lack of experience for him.

Maybe he doesn’t agree on everything all the time, but at least he’s honest and direct in his dealings.

Zaccagnino deserves to be re-elected.

Don’t play games with city government. Vote to preserve the integrity of the city.

The Islander recommends Holmes Beach voters choose three fair, deserving, honest people: Zaccagnino, Morton and C. Melissa Williams.

— Bonner Joy

 

The continuing adventure of a newspaper

Embarking on an adventure in another state or another country is an exciting time.

You find yourself waking up in the night in the days before your departure with anticipation of the exploits to come.

So it was 22 years ago with the launch of The Islander newspaper by a band of friends and associates, who, facing the demise of the existing local “rag,” set out to fill the void for newslovers and the curious on Anna Maria Island.

It began almost overnight in a small office in Holmes Beach as the Islander Bystander. In fact, from concept to reality, the first edition Nov. 25, 1992, took only a week. It had to, as the existing paper was being absorbed that same week into a regional publication that offered NO NEWS about Anna Maria Island.

A core group of people — you can laugh, but it was three people — spread out across Anna Maria Island to visit anyone and everyone they knew in business to collect advertising. Another core group gathered news, and one person offered to stop in the “cop shops,” as we called them, and uncovered a theft had occurred at a church — and a suspect’s sketch.

Giddy-up. We suddenly had a cover story and graphic for our first edition.

We called friends and business associates to start up a classified ad column. Found a printer. Arranged a home delivery crew. And we gave it a name — Islander Bystander, borrowed from a John D. MacDonald novel  — not knowing if someone owned “The Islander.”

This week, the publication, which evolved comfortably into The Islander masthead after about seven years, begins volume 22, issue No. 1.

Some days it seems little has changed. Other days, you might think you’re on a different planet.

Recently, the office moved to a brighter, more visible space on Marina Drive across from the Island Library. It seems a fitting location, and the timing was suited to the future of newspapers.

We believe the future of community newspapers is solid. We offer news the dailies, TV and radio have no time or space for, and we do it with heart.

But the real future, the real change, will be how the information is presented, and that includes embracing the internet and all that social media has to offer. We want to be a driving force for the future of journalism and communications on AMI.

Which brings us to now. Back to the future. More than three years ago, we were invited to take part in a digital newspaper library pilot project with the University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.

We started by sending all the electronically produced copies of the newspaper to library technicians, who then included The Islander newspaper editions — from 2005 and forward — in the library database.

Next, we donated our collection of printed newspapers covering the beginning, 1992, up to the electronic era of 2005. It took a few years, but it’s all on the UofF digital library site now, all searchable by key word, name or date.

It’s awesome.

That prompted us to reduce our storage of dead newspapers — what we newspapers call a “morgue.”

The next step in our quest to be the “best” news on Anna Maria Island is a digital photo library. By next year at this time or slightly later, The Islander will become part of the official state of Florida archive — our collection of news photos dating back to 1992 will be featured on our own page within the state archives, found at Floridamemory.com.

Soon enough, you’ll be able to find archived photos going back to the first editions of The Islander preserved on the state’s website.

As for now, there’s 21 years, 52 weeks a year, cover to back, the complete collection of The Islander, online.

You’ll find The Islander at the UofF library among the digital stacks, now and into the future. Weekly.

Giddy-up.

— Bonner Joy

 

Reprinted from The Islander, Nov. 15, 1951

What! Another newspaper …

Yes! THE ISLANDER is a brand new newspaper. While this is being written, we have not a single subscriber nor one advertiser. We have no connection whatever with previous newspapers so our mailing list comes from the directory, telephone book and the memories of our friends.

Already many people have promised to advertise in The Islander and many others have promised to subscribe. (We will mail some 500-700 copies of this issue plus what we sell in the stores.)

The publisher is The Islander Inc., Anna Maria Florida.

While our initial issue is small, we plan to standardize on a minimum 8-page weekly paper servicing equally Anna Maria, Holmes Beach, Bradenton Beach and all other sections of the Island being developed-the entire Island.

The Islander will be written and edited as an entirely independent newspaper owing no self-service allegiance to any individual group, sect or organization and devoted wholly to the entire population of the Island. Its pages will be open as a public forum where matters pertaining to Anna Maria may be discussed by both sides on any subject that affects the welfare of the people.

We intend to prove whether or not Anna Maria needs and will support a good newspaper. If our endeavor fails, it will not be our failure. Success is in your hands – residents, freeholders, Realtors, tradesmen, service people and all the civic and cultural organizations on the Island.

This was reprinted on page 1 of the new Islander Bystander newspaper in 1992 with the following:
DITTO FROM THE PUBLISHER AND STAFF OF THE ISLANDER/BYSTANDER.

 

Anna Maria Island voters head to polls in 3 cities

Anna Maria voters were headed to the Roser Memorial Community Church polling station at 512 Pine Ave. Nov. 5, to elect three commissioners from four candidates in the race. There were 1,302 city voters as of the Oct. 7 registration deadline for this election.

Holmes Beach has 3,289 registered voters in two precincts and all will vote in the municipal election at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 6608 Marina Drive.

The polling station in Bradenton Beach for the city’s 911 voters has changed for the Nov. 5 municipal election from previous elections to the Annie Silver Community Center, 102 23rd Ave.

Voters were heading to the polls as the Nov. 6 edition of The Islander was being distributed Nov. 5, in advance of the dateline.

Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach voters faced choices from among five candidates seeking three seats in Holmes Beach, and two candidates each running for mayor and commissioner in Bradenton Beach.

The Holmes Beach commission candidates are incumbents Jean Peelen, Pat Morton and David Zaccagnino, along with political newcomers C. Melissa Williams and Carol Soustek. The top three vote-getters will take office.

In Bradenton Beach, former city commissioner Bill Shearon is challenging incumbent John Shaughnessy for mayor, while former Commissioner Janie Robertson and incumbent Commissioner Ric Gatehouse face off for the Ward 3 commission seat.

The four commission candidates in Anna Maria are incumbent Dale Woodland, newly appointed Doug Copeland, and political newcomers Carol Carter and Mike Jaworski.

Voters in Anna Maria are tasked with filling three seats from among the four candidates. The top three vote-getters will take office for two years.

Also being decided in Anna Maria is a charter amendment that defines how a mayor is selected in the event the office becomes vacant. The amendment also defines how a vacant seat on the commission is filled.

The Anna Maria organizational meeting and swearing-in ceremony for the new commission will be at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14, at the Anna Maria City Hall, 10005 Gulf Drive.

A representative at the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections office said a 30-35 percent turnout of voters in an odd-year election would be a good figure.

Full results of the three city elections will be posted in The Islander’s online edition as they become available — after polls close at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5.

Online at www.islander.org in advance of the polls closing are biographical stories on each of the candidates in the three municipal elections and The Islander’s endorsements.

Know before you go to the poll.

 

 

Anna Maria municipal election candidates

Anna Maria has four candidates seeking one of the three seats on the commission in the Nov. 5 municipal election.

Carol Carter was born in Pennsylvania and raised on a dairy farm in Maryland. She has a pre-med degree from McDaniel College and a master’s degree from the University of Maryland.

After marrying her husband Bob in 1983, she worked for various non-profit organizations such as The Pittsburgh Foundation, the national Feeding America organization, the Alzheimers Association and was chief fund-raiser for Carnegie Mellon University. She was a vice-chancellor at the University of Pittsburgh. Carter currently works for Bob Carter Companies Inc., a company her husband owns that advises non-profit organizations.

She and her husband bought a home on Willow Avenue in 2001. Carter has not previously sought public office. She is a member of the city’s planning and zoning board.

The Carters have two sons who both live in Naples, and two grandchildren.

Doug Copeland first came to Anna Maria on a vacation trip in 1961.

He is originally from Dayton, Ohio, and graduated from DePauw University.

He was married in 1972 at his parents’ home on North Shore Drive. He and wife Pat moved to Anna Maria in 1974. He is currently an independent woodworker and has been a part-time job tending bar.

Copeland is a former chair of the planning and zoning board.

He was appointed to the commission in June following the resignation of Commissioner John

Quam.

Copeland has two grown children and one grandchild.

 

Michael Jaworski

Jaworski was born in Michigan and received a degree in math from Olivet College.

He first came to Anna Maria on his honeymoon in 1971.

Jaworski worked for Ford Motor Company for 20 years as an electrician before returning to college and earning his degree.

On graduating, he returned to Ford and worked another 20 years as an engineer.

He and wife Frieda were married in 1971 and moved to Anna Maria in 2007. They have four grown children and six grandchildren.

Jaworski works part-time for both Island Real Estate in Holmes Beach and Anna Maria’s public works department.

He has not previously sought public office.

 

Dale Woodland

Woodland moved with is family to Anna Maria Island in 1953 when he was 5 years old. He attended Anna Maria Elementary School and Manatee High School.

He graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in mathematics and was a computer systems developer in Sarasota and Manatee counties until retiring in 1996.

Woodland now owns a pool cleaning and supply business.

He is a former member of the planning and zoning board and is seeking his sixth term as a commissioner.

He has two children and five grandchildren.

 

Meet the Bradenton Beach municipal election candidates

There are two commissioner and two mayoral candidates in the Nov. 5 Bradenton Beach municipal election. The polling station has changed for the Nov. 5 election from previous elections to the Annie Silver Community Center, 102 23rd Ave.

 

John Shaughnessy

Incumbent Mayor John Shaughnessy did not respond in time to an Islander request for additional information.

 

Bill Shearon

Besides being a former Bradenton Beach commissioner, mayoral candidate Bill Shearon is a self-made businessman living in Bradenton Beach since 1995.

Shearon started a petroleum marketing company on his own and ran it for 27 years. He started the company as the only employee, but retired with 150 people in his employment.

Shearon is currently in the lucrative rental business on Anna Maria Island, owning and operating the Linger Longer Resort, 304 Gulf Drive S., Bradenton Beach.

Having the need of a service dog, one of Shearon’s passions is helping others benefit from service dogs in gaining more independence in their lives.

He is active with the Lighthouse for the Blind and Southeastern Guide Dogs.

 

Ric Gatehouse

While breathing in the salt air of the sea is a vacation to many, Bradenton Beach Commissioner Ric Gatehouse made a career of it while serving in the dredging industry as a tugboat captain.

Gatehouse worked at sea International Union of Operating Engineers Local 25 Marine Division for almost 20 years beginning in the 1990s.

Included in a long career were the 1993 beach renourishment projects on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key.

He retired from dredging in 2010 and two years later began serving his first political term as Bradenton Beach commissioner.

Before his dredging career, Gatehouse worked in the entertainment industry as a DJ, bartender and manager. He also started a business as a management and artist consultant, as well as booking talent for various venues.

He began his entertainment career as a drummer in a rock band.

He cites many exciting endeavors, but none more rewarding than “serving the citizens of Bradenton Beach.”

He currently manages websites, including the city’s, but is seeking to turn those duties over to a different company.

 

Janie Robertson

Janie Robertson’s six years on the Bradenton Beach dais is experience enough to seek her former commission seat after being termed out of office in 2011.

She graduated from the University of Michigan with degrees in kinesiology and administration and holds a kindergarten-college teaching certificate.

She retired to Florida in 1997, but is no stranger to the political realm, having held political party positions at the local, county and state levels in Michigan.

She was a consultant for such events as the Detroit auto show, statewide art shows and numerous dance and theater productions. She also was a personal image, wardrobe and design consultant.

Robertson said she is blessed with many talents that include being a musician. She played the bassoon in the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra in Michigan and was a dancer and choreographer in a semi-professional touring company.

She is the mother of three sons and was a Parent-Teacher Association officer for 12 years.

Before being elected to her Bradenton Beach office, Robertson was already involved in city politics. She participated in the city’s 2002 vision plan and served on the comprehensive plan review committee, as well as the Scenic Waves Partnership committee.

While her professional and political accolades are many, it’s how others view her integrity, caring and trustworthiness that she said prompted former constituents to ask her to continue her political career in Bradenton Beach.

 

Meet the Holmes Beach municipal election candidates

There are five candidates for the Nov. 5 Holmes Beach Commission election.

The Holmes Beach polling station for precincts 92 and 93 is at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 6608 Marina Drive.

 

Jean Peelen

Holmes Beach Commissioner Jean Peelen manages city meetings as one role of being commission chair, but she brings plenty of outside experience to the dais.

Peelen spent 25 years as a federal civil rights attorney and manager specializing in the rights of children with disabilities in public schools, as well as fighting for women to have equal opportunities in education and intercollegiate athletics.

Her final two years in federal service was as chief of staff of an agency overseeing international radio and television programming.

Serving as a federal attorney for 25 years might not seem like a typical jump into modeling, but the diverse Peelen did just that when she retired. She is a model and commercial actress, has created radio programming on creative aging and is a two-time published author.

As a commissioner, her public service expanded as a member of the Manatee County Tourist Development Council, Manasota League of Cities and on the Urban Affairs Legislative Committee of the Florida League of Cities. She is actively pursuing an effort to repeal HB 883, which took away home rule for local governments to regulate rental homes.

Outside of her public service to Holmes Beach, Peelen serves on the Manatee County Animal Services Advisory Board with the goal to make the jurisdiction a no-kill county. Until that happens, Peelen said the goal is to reduce the 50-percent kill rate in 2011 to less than 10 percent.

Her love of animals doesn’t stop there. She is a foster mother with Underdog Rescue for dogs waiting for adoption.

Peelen also founded the Anna Maria Island Chapter of Dining for Women, a giving circle that raises money to support women and children around the world.

 

David Zaccagnino

Eight-year Commissioner David Zaccagnino brings years of financial experience to the Holmes Beach dais.

For the past three years, Zaccagnino has worked as a financial adviser for Ameriprise Financial and, prior to that, worked for 11 years for Morgan Stanley.

Zaccagnino’s financial background was preceded by five years a chemical analyst after graduating from Florida State University with a degree in chemical science.

The commissioner put his master’s degree in business to work when he made the switch to financial adviser.

Zaccagnino grew up in Tampa, attending a Catholic grade school and graduating from a Jesuit high school.

He said from a young age, community service was part of his life and, he has served on the Florida Institute of Saltwater Heritage board in Cortez, and in the Island Democratic Club, Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, Friends of the Island Library, Rotary Club of Anna Maria and was a T-ball coach at the Anna Maria Island Community Center for two years.

Zaccagnino also has participated in local Sierra Club outings, served as chair of the Holmes Beach Parks and Beautification Committee prior to being a commissioner, and as a parishioner at St. Bernard Catholic Church in Holmes Beach.

He is married with three children and enjoys spending time with his family on the beach or in the boat.

Zaccagnino said he has a lot to be proud of in his public and private life, but takes being a dad to the next level with his involvement in his daughter’s Girl Scout Troop 316. He also has served as homeroom parent for his daughter’s Anna Maria Elementary School class.

 

Carol Soustek

Holmes Beach Commission candidate Carol Soustek brings some financial savvy to her campaign as a retired corporate accountant.

She is a second-generation Floridian and 24-year resident of Holmes Beach. A graduate of HCC in Tampa, Soustek has a business background suited for politics, but it’s her community involvement that she feels makes her ready for public service.

She has been a member of the Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring conservation group for 22 years and was awarded the group’s annual “Sadie” award for outstanding volunteer service.

She has served as treasurer for Save Anna Maria Inc. and is currently its vice president. She also is a longtime member of the Friends of the Island Library.

Soustek’s conservation efforts include being a member of the Seven Shores at Perico Island opposition movement, beach cleanup groups, supporting Grassy Point, Hands across the Sand and Preserve Our Waterline Road group. She also is a member of the Long Bar Pointe development opposition group.

She has city experience as part of a building codes work group and currently is serving as chair on the Holmes Beach Island Congestion committee.

 

C. Melissa Williams

Holmes Beach Commission candidate C. Melissa Williams may be new to politics, but she’s not new to public service.

A Holmes Beach resident and owner of Steam Designs, 5343 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, Williams is an active member of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce and won the chamber’s 2009 Small Business of the Year award.

She has served on the Anna Maria Island Historical Society board for six years, including two years as president. She chaired the society’s Heritage Days Festival committee for four years.

She also was president of the Anna Maria Island Rotary Club from 2011-12.

Williams is involved with the island’s cultural sector, serving as a board member with Cultural Connections, the Coalition for Arts Advocacy and as the artsHop event coordinator for three years raising thousands of dollars for local nonprofits.

She served on the Anna Maria Island Art League board for two years as secretary. She also is a member of the Manatee County Historical Society.

 

Pat Morton

Commissioner Pat Morton has served on the dais for 10 years. He is actively involved with CrossPointe Fellowship. Morton did not respond to an Islander inquiry in time for deadline.

Sidebar Gallery opens with reception

The Islander newspaper’s Sidebar Gallery will open Friday, Nov. 8, with a public reception and premiere showing of new work by local artists Linda Molto, Ines Norman, Cecy Richardson and Susanna Spann.

The evening, coinciding with the islandwide artsHOP cultural celebration, will feature art and artists, entertainment by musician Gene Aubry and appetizers provided by Beach Bistro, The Feast and Harry’s Continental Kitchens.

The reception will take place 5:30-8 p.m. The show will continue at Sidebar through November.

The Sidebar is at the newspaper office, 5604B Marina Drive, Holmes Beach.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Ministry of Presence and its mission supporting children in Haiti.

The public is welcome to both the reception and the gallery. Hours for the gallery are 9-5 Monday-Friday.

Sidebar also includes a collection of work by numerous local and national artists for sale, as well as Caribbean paintings by friends of the ministry in Haiti.

For more information, call The Islander at 941-778-7978.

Chamber exec: People angry over negative tourism tone

Sometimes the truth hurts.

Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce executive director Mary Ann Brockman says the recent wave of negative talk about tourism has visitors angry.

Brockman attended an Oct. 28 congestion committee meeting in Holmes Beach and when asked what the recent trend in tourism is, Brockman fired back a question of her own.

“Do you want the truth?” she asked.

Brockman said visitors to the island are well aware of the negative tone public officials have taken in recent months toward tourism.

“A lot of Europeans are extremely angry about the talk that they don’t want tourists here,” said Brockman. “They say they will take their dollars elsewhere. A lot of people in Bradenton also are angry.”

Brockman said she receives phone calls from Manatee County residents who ask her, “Do you think you are so special out there? You can’t even get to the mainland without coming into Bradenton first.”

She said a “really bad” spin has been placed on the island and she is receiving a lot of calls from people who want to remind island officials that the beaches belong to Manatee County. They pay county taxes and the beaches are just as much theirs, Brockman said.

Blaming “daytrippers” has alienated some mainland residents, as was evident in a recent protest on the Palma Sola Causeway where Bradenton residents sold “daytripper” bumper stickers.

Island officials have used that term, particularly in Holmes Beach and Anna Maria, while addressing subjects that are tourist-related, however, the term “daytripper” was coined long ago and was not created in a negative light.

The term “daytripper” is used in books about the history of Anna Maria Island that defined those who lived close to the island and who would come for a day at the beach or for a meal at one of the early lodging facilities.

Easing traffic congestion, parking and infrastructure concerns have been a primary point of discussion islandwide. Whether it has been an attack on tourists and daytrippers is speculative, but Brockman said that doesn’t matter once perception becomes someone’s reality.

“So I’m trying to combat that,” she said.

Public officials have stemmed the use of “daytrippers,” and Holmes Beach Mayor Carmel Monti asked his commission to no longer use the term.

Brockman said avoiding the term with a negative tone has helped.

She doesn’t believe the recent headlines of island officials trying to address the impact of tourism will hurt the coming tourist season, which typically begins in late February.

She’s not so sure about the future, however, “because it’s all picked up by the media and it goes viral. In the years to come, I think it will have an impact on tourism.”

Committee member Bob Johnson wanted to know if tourism appeared to be growing “before the fire storm in the local papers.”

Brockman said the overwhelming majority of responses from visitors have been positive, but some have complained about the bathrooms at the Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach, which visitors say, “are a little gross.”

She said the bathrooms at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach get a better response.

The committee asked if Brockman understood the frustration of some residents.

“We can’t be knocking the tourists,” said Brockman. “That’s our dollar. It keeps businesses alive. It’s the tourists that drive our economy. We don’t have anything else. We don’t have commerce here.”

Brockman said that as a resident, of course, she wants to see residents happy, but she blames the increase in rental homes as the problem.

When asked if she would define the recent concerns about tourism as an explosive or gradual increase, Brockman said she would define it as gradual.

“We get a lot of good publicity because we are the laid-back island and we want to stay that way,” she said. “We don’t want to be Longboat Key or Siesta Key. We want to be Anna Maria, but change is going to happen. It’s more important in what you do with it.”

Brockman said she is seeing more young families beginning to come to the island, especially Europeans, who stay for a week to recharge and relax before continuing their vacations somewhere more fast paced.

Brockman was critical of recent proposals of paid parking at the Manatee Public Beach.

Brockman said Manatee County residents are telling her they already pay taxes for the beach and shouldn’t have to pay to park there.

She was reminded that the paid parking proposal didn’t come from the congestion committee, but Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer, a committee member, defended the proposal.

“People here pay taxes, but when they go downtown, they have to pay for parking and sales tax,” said Tokajer.

Brockman said it wasn’t the same thing, but Tokajer said it was.

“You are paying for convenience to be close to downtown Bradenton,” said Tokajer. “It’s the same reason for the suggestion here. You can pay for the convenience or, if you don’t want to pay, then that’s the reason we are trying for the park-and-ride spots.”

Brockman said she wished she had the solution, but does not.

Committee chair Carol Soustek said everyone is working together for the benefit of all.

“We want the trip to be better for them, too,” said Soustek. “We don’t want them stuck in endless traffic either. So we want their trip to be good and we want our residents not to feel overwhelmed. That’s the purpose of all of this.”

Congestion committee preps parking agreement

The Holmes Beach congestion committee is almost ready with a parking agreement for properties interested in serving as part-time overflow parking areas.

The committee met Oct. 28 and reviewed a preliminary agreement drafted by city attorney Patricia Petruff at the behest of the committee.

Committee member Bob Johnson said the agreement appeared “pretty straightforward” in presenting it to the membership for review. “It’s important that if there are any things we see, such as omissions or overstatements, that we identify them. We need to agree that we have something to move forward with.”

According to the agreement language, if approved, the city would provide trash receptacles, law enforcement patrols and signage directing motorists to available parking lots.

The business and/or church would agree to the use of the parking lot, be responsible for maintenance and could install a donation box.

The donation box became key for involvement after the committee learned a church on St. Armand’s Circle in Sarasota allows visistors to the popular shopping destination to use their parking lot. The church said it brings in about $10,000 a year in donations.

Only one area of the agreement raised concern. The “owner” would be responsible to secure its lot during any periods when public parking would not be allowed.

Committee members suggested the word “secure” may not be the best word choice, as it implies sealing off the parking lot.

Committee member Terry Davidson suggested striking the word and instead include language that signs would be placed stating, “No Parking,” on the days it was not available for beach visitors.

Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer suggested the language be clarified by Petruff before the committee presents its agreement to the commission. Tokajer said that could be accomplished before the committee’s Nov. 12 meeting.

A lot of ideas have been on the committee’s table. Among those ideas are to change traffic flow at the Manatee Public Beach to create a passenger drop-off area where motorists could drop family members and beach gear, and then drive to an off-site parking lot.

Tokajer said city staff is working with Manatee County staff to come up with a traffic plan, but the project wasn’t looking good. However, he said the city and county are working together to come up with a plan that will “overhaul parking at the beach.”

Included in that plan is for the county to remove its equipment from the southeast area of the parking lot to free up what is estimated to be dozens more parking spaces.

Tokajer also is in discussion with the U.S. Coast Guard, which is responsible for the draw bridges on Manatee Avenue and Cortez Road.

From January through June, the bridge tenders raise the draw on demand on a 30-minute schedule to allow boat traffic to pass through. From July through December, the timeframe for allowed openings is on a 20-minute cycle.

Tokajer is suggesting 30-minute openings year-round, which he said would help alleviate congestion by shortening the number of times that the bridges rise, stopping traffic onto and off the island.

Tokajer said the Coast Guard is in favor of the idea, but it needs an official request from the city. The chief has presented the idea to the commission as a preliminary suggestion and on receiving the go ahead, he will present an official request to the Coast Guard.

Tokajer said it also would be contingent on Bradenton Beach agreeing to the plan.

He said it would likely take about six months of pushing paperwork through the appropriate channels.

Tokajer received some quick opposition from building official Tom O’Brien when he presented his idea to the commission at an Oct. 24 work session. O’Brien said vessels on the Intracoastal Waterway have priority over motorists.

O’Brien said it was a safety issue and that it was harder for a vessel to maintain course in the current of the channel than it is for motorists to stop for the drawbridge.

The committee also is garnering support for its efforts from Josh Pettit, who runs a smartphone app site titled QRHop.com.

Pettit has working apps in place for the island already and is updating an app that would allow the city to incorporate information on off-site parking areas for app users.

He also is digitizing the trolley route, “so you can view all stops.” He also said the app will locate where the user is in relation to the trolley stops.”

QRHop.com is active now and will feature a Facebook-style comment section for people using the app to visit island restaurants and businesses. While the site is up and running, Pettit plans to have the “main launch” sometime in November.

“Once we have this second version going, it will allow real-time data for parking availability,” said Pettit.

HB committee member calls out political motives

Meeting twice a month, the Holmes Beach Island Congestion committee appeared to be making some headway toward its goal of providing suggestions and recommendations on traffic and parking issues.

However, one member doesn’t believe the committee is doing enough.

Committee member Bob Johnson sent an email dated Oct. 30 questioning the committee’s validity and challenging its leadership. The committee is chaired by Holmes Beach commissioner candidate Carol Soustek.

The email was sent after an Oct. 28 committee meeting that was largely devoted to public comment, in particular, Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce executive director Mary Ann Brockman, who was invited to speak on the state of tourism by Soustek.

“The conduct of this committee’s last meeting of Oct. 28 should cause all of us, as members, to question where we are going and how can we get there from here,” Johnson wrote.

Johnson said Brockman “came totally unprepared to provide any meaningful input to the committee.”

He went on to cite what the committee did get accomplished, which was discussing a proposed parking agreement with local churches and businesses that might participate in the committee’s vision of opening offsite parking lots to handle beach over-flow parking.

Johnson then wrote that the remainder of the meeting was re-dedicated to public comment, at which time, “The meeting was then declared adjourned by the chair without any input from the committee.”

Johnson said the meeting ended without a proper review of the “limited actions that came out of the meeting.”

He said the committee ignored his pre-meeting communications about key points that needed discussion, implying too much time was spent on listening to public comment and a guest speaker.

“The function of a committee is not to serve only as a venue for public comment unless its sole purpose is to provide political cover,” wrote Johnson.

He said his understanding of why Mayor Carmel Monti formed the committee was to “come up with ideas that will have a positive effect on the citizens of Holmes Beach, the residents of our county and the national and global visitors to this, our little piece of paradise.”

Johnson wrote that public comment is one piece of the pie, “but to be effective, the committee needs to do much more.”

He called for more action from the committee and, a change in leadership.

“The current chair is well-intentioned, but does not demonstrate the knowledge, experience or leadership capabilities required of the position,” Johnson wrote. “A new chair should be found.”

Soustek said if it was the will of the committee, she would step aside.

“But it’s not going to make anything go any quicker,” she said. “Bob is an asset to this committee and works very hard. He’s the kind of person that wants things done now but, unfortunately, this is a process that takes time. Mostly because we have to wait on other people to give us the information we need.”

Soustek said the committee agreed from day one that it would approach the traffic and congestion issues with “baby steps” to ensure the process receives due diligence.

She is proud of the progress the committee is making and believes that good ideas have been moved forward thanks “to a number of greatly talented people.”

Judge sides with commercial fishers, ends statewide net ban

A circuit judge in Tallahassee has agreed with commercial fishers — the enforcement of Florida’s net-ban law is an “absolute mess.” She ordered the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to stop prohibiting the use of certain nets.

But that doesn’t mean fishers are close to ending their nearly 20-year struggle with the FWC’s interpretation of the 1994 constitutional amendment that limited net fishing.

“We have to be cautiously optimistic about this,” said Jerry Sansom, executive director of the Organized Fishermen of Florida, a statewide commercial fishing association, “We’ve had circuit court rulings like this before and the District Court of Appeal just overturns them without explanation.”

“We’re just advising our members to pay very close attention to the situation and particularly to what the FWC says they are and are not enforcing,” Sansom said Oct. 30.

On its face, the Oct. 22 ruling by Leon County Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford in a lawsuit brought by Wakulla County mullet fishers against the state agency is a strong victory.

Fulford has been considering the issue for more than a year and has even gone mullet fishing to see how the nets allowed by the FWC work.

At the heart of the case is an agency rule that defines any net with a stretched mesh size greater than 2 inches a “gill net.” Since the constitutional amendment specifically outlawed gill nets, commercial fishers have been restricted to using hand-thrown cast nets, but those nets do a poor job of catching legal-sized fish and juvenile fish are being killed in the process.

Fulford wrote in her 11-page opinion: “How can it be acceptable that the only net that FWC will permit the commercial fishermen to use to catch mullet, actually gills and entangles massive amounts of juvenile fish that are unlawful to keep; thus causing significant unnecessary killing and waste? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose for which the Net Ban Amendment was enacted? And how does FWC have the authority to write exceptions to the Net Ban Amendment?”

Fulford concluded that “a legal absurdity has been created by amendments to the Florida Constitution and rules adopted by the FWC, and it may well be that only further amendment to the constitution will correct the problem.”

“Do not misunderstand the Court’s conclusion,” she continued. “The Court is not saying that preserving our marine life is absurd. Instead, the absurdity is created in the law and how it is being applied. It is abundantly unfair for the courts to continue to attempt enforcement of laws that contradict each other.”

Initially, Fulford’s ruling was stayed after the state attorney general’s office filed a notice of appeal with the 1st District Court of Appeal. But Fulford reaffirmed her order on Oct. 30 and instructed the FWC to immediately stop enforcing its net rules.

“The recent ruling in the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court could remove the stay for the net-limitation case, which could remove all limitations for net fishing as prescribed in the Florida Constitution and associated rules,” Amanda Nalley, spokeswoman for the FWC, said Nov. 1.

“Our law enforcement officers are staying current on the status of the 2nd Judicial Court’s ruling and will abide by the court’s decision,” she added.

However, in practice that might not always be the case.

Karen Bell, owner of Star Fish Co. in Cortez and co-owner of A.P. Bell Fish Co., a fish wholesaler, said Nov. 1 that one Cortez fisherman asked a local FWC official what would happen if he fished with gill nets and he was told, “I will arrest you, I will seize your boat, I will seize your net if you try to go gill-netting.”

“As I understand (the ruling), right now you can go gill-netting,” Bell said, yet the risk of arrest and the cost might stop netters from attempting to use gill nets anytime soon.

An appeal of Fulford’s ruling is likely and the issue is far from resolved, but Bell sees some positives.

“At least people are thinking about it and I think some people are seeing that (the net ban) wasn’t done properly,” she said.

We shouldn’t manage fisheries through the constitution and the ban’s impact on commercial fishers is better understood now by the public, she said.

Florida residents are “at least more respectful of what these guys go through to bring domestic seafood to consumers,” Bell said, plus they have become more aware of how important commercial fishing is to the state’s economy.

Ron Mowrey, the attorney who filed the lawsuit against the FWC on behalf of some north Florida mullet fishers, told the Tallahassee Democrat his clients would be happy to stop the court wrangling. They are willing to work with the agency to come up with a net size acceptable to both sides, but earlier attempts at mediation were shut down by the agency.

If an agreement can’t be reached, Mowrey said the issue “is a major public-policy matter that needs to be addressed by the Florida Supreme Court.”

Cheryl Nordby Schmidt is a freelance writer based in Holmes Beach.