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Date of Issue: July 20, 2006

Going where others have failed seeking consolidation

Forgive Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce Board Chairman Don Schroder if he feels a bit like Capt. Kirk of Star Trek fame.

Schroder is trying to "boldly go where no man has gone before" in getting the three Island cities to discuss consolidation.

Schroder and the chamber have agreed to act as the "facilitator" to get discussion of consolidation of services among the three cities started - again - and moving forward.

He said he’s received approval from each of the three mayors to start dialog with each city’s chamber liaison member to "ascertain areas of common ground.

"I had the opportunity to work with each of the liaisons through chamber activities and felt that we could work as a team to find and explore areas of mutual civic compatibility. I was not disappointed," he said.

Schroder said the chamber has formed the All Island Strategic Planning Initiative with city commissioners Duke Miller of Anna Maria, Bill Shearon of Bradenton Beach and David Zaccagnino of Holmes Beach as core members. All three are commission liaisons to the chamber.

The idea of the initiative and team is to "put aside personal agendas" and find common ground to begin discussing requests by citizens of each city for "more efficient and effective municipal services," he said. The chamber is simply acting as the moderator and facilitator.

The AISPI mission will be to "find, explore and recommend potential opportunities [for consolidation]" which will benefit all three cities when enacted.

No decisions will be reached by the AISPI without a consensus, he said.

But Schroder isn’t exactly "boldly going where no man has gone before."

Island consolidation and consolidation of services have been ideas discussed since 1959, when the three Island cities first rejected consolidating into one city.

Since then, other failed initiatives at consolidating were in the 1980s, when an attempt to form one Island police force failed, in 1989 when formation of a committee to study consolidation was rejected by the three cities, and again in 2003-04 when a plan to have an All-Island building department was derailed because the three cities could not agree on who would be in charge.

As Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore has said previously, Bradenton Beach and Anna Maria fear a Holmes Beach takeover of the Island, while Holmes Beach commissioners have asked "What’s in it for us?" in any consolidation effort.

Schroder, however, believes in the adage that while the current effort might fail, to make no effort will surely fail. And he sees some signs of hope where other efforts have fallen by the wayside.

"There has been a definite shift on consolidation," he observed, noting that at least the three cities and respective commissioners are willing to sit down and seek common ground.

Although the AISPI has already had two meetings, Schroder said Islanders shouldn’t expect a quick fix or immediate plan. It’s going to be a long process.

"It’s just fiscally responsible" to make the effort and it’s what the voters want, he said, referring to the non-binding referendum on discussing consolidation in last year’s November election that passed in both Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach. The consolidation measure was not on the Anna Maria ballot because it was rejected by the city commission.

The AISPI meetings do not fall under Florida’s Sunshine Law as the three commissioners each represent different voting districts, noted Schroder.