A holiday wish list for Sarasota

By | December 22, 2023

Dear Santa Claus,

This is short notice and the deadline is just around the corner, but I was a little hesitant about sending out my wish list this year. I’ll be the first to admit that 2023 has not been our finest hour.

While our struggles and conflicts, driven by inflamed passions on either side, may not exactly be described as ‘naughty’, there certainly hasn’t been much ‘nice’ happening either.

Carrie Seidman

Carrie Seidman

We have attracted the attention of national media and publications that have portrayed us as the epitome of the country’s partisan divide and bad behavior. The political resentment that has only grown since the last election has stifled local progress, impacting our schools, hospital, academic institutions and local government.

In too many cases, it has poisoned relationships between residents, officials, colleagues and neighbors, eliminating productive exchange and fueling incivility and disrespect.

We’re in the middle of a growth spurt where some of us can’t wait to get the keys to the car and others are longing to return to the sandbox.

We spar over what we think is best for both our children and our seniors and who should be the arbiter of those choices. We tout our freedoms while passing restrictive and discriminatory legislation that discourages our teachers, locks out our most vulnerable, and alienates entire swaths of our community. And as environmental change poses an increasing threat, we continue to bulldoze and build and produce waste as if our fragile ecosystem is indestructible.

It must have seemed more than once that we were behaving badly on purpose. But in reality, it’s more that we’re at an impasse when it comes to reaching a consensus on what we want to become and how to get there.

We have given up on the idea of ​​cooperation and collaboration, dismissed it as simply unattainable, and hardened our hearts to anything but our own vision.

A holiday wish list for Santa Claus from A holiday wish list for Santa Claus from

A holiday wish list for Santa from ‘Sara Sota’. (Photo credit: photo illustration by Jennifer Borreson)

The truth is, Santa, we could use some help here. With that goal in mind, I hope you will consider granting these modest wishes, which are offered in a holiday atmosphere full of merriment and jokes.

All I want for Christmas is:

For the Sarasota County Commission chambers: a hearing loop system and top-notch assistants for the commissioners* so they can better hear the pleas of the voters before them and actually let them drive their decision-making. (*Except Commissioner Mark Smith, whose hearing appears to be entirely adequate.)

For New College of Florida: An audience for the newly created and prioritized sports teams.

For New College of Florida exiles: a happier home where your intelligence and creativity can flourish without fear of discrimination or retaliation.

The crowd turns and stands their ground The crowd turns and stands their ground

Members of the public turn their backs and hold up “Protect Academic Freedom” signs after the New College board of trustees denied early appointment to five professors during an April 2023 meeting. Some demonstrators wear T-shirts with the words: “BAN THE FASCISTS KEEP THE BOOKS.”

For Sarasota County Libraries: restoration of funding for American Library Association and Florida Library Association memberships and the return of the professional development opportunities they provide.

For Christian and Bridget Ziegler and the developers of the “Obsidian” at 1260 N. Palm and the proposed mega-hotels on Siesta Key: the ability to recognize that you are not wanted and the grace to disappear accordingly.

Christian and Bridget Ziegler arrive at the July 2022 Moms for Liberty National Summit in Tampa.  Columnist Carrie Seidman says it's time for the embattled political power couple to leave the Sarasota spotlight.Christian and Bridget Ziegler arrive at the July 2022 Moms for Liberty National Summit in Tampa.  Columnist Carrie Seidman says it's time for the embattled political power couple to leave the Sarasota spotlight.

Christian and Bridget Ziegler arrive at the July 2022 Moms for Liberty National Summit in Tampa. Columnist Carrie Seidman says it’s time for the embattled political power couple to leave the Sarasota spotlight.

More: The Zieglers are faced with a come-to-Jesus moment. Let’s give them space to experience it.

To the “purple ribbon” committee deciding the fate of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall: an appreciation for the irreplaceable value of this nationally recognized, historically significant and architecturally significant building that has become the colorful symbol of Sarasota’s vibrant performing arts community.

The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall has been the premier home for touring Broadway shows, concerts and dance performances in Sarasota for more than 50 years.The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall has been the premier home for touring Broadway shows, concerts and dance performances in Sarasota for more than 50 years.

The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall has been the premier home for touring Broadway shows, concerts and dance performances in Sarasota for more than 50 years.

For the County’s health and social service organizations: A fair and impartial system, not based on the political or personal biases of any elected official, for prioritizing and distributing funding for our County’s growing mental health needs.

For Newtown: an end to the decades-long string of failures to rejuvenate and reactivate the neighborhood, and a redevelopment project that both the city and community can get behind and flourish. (RIP Ms. Susie.)

For remote, visually impaired and confused drivers of all ages: an understanding of how roundabouts work and the ability to navigate them successfully.

For those roundabouts: natural landscaping enhanced without distraction, allowing our public art to return to the Bay Front (as in the days of “Season of Sculpture”).

For Sarasota Memorial Hospital: Trauma-informed protocols and practices for staff at the new Cornell Behavioral Health Pavilion to ensure treatment for patients experiencing mental health crises is as welcoming and helpful as the new facility.

For Mayor Liz Alpert: a booster seat that will allow her to be seen at Sarasota City Commission meetings and “rise above” her male colleagues.

Sarasota City Commissioner Liz Alpert, who also currently serves in the city's ceremonial mayoral role, speaks during a July 2022 meeting.Sarasota City Commissioner Liz Alpert, who also currently serves in the city's ceremonial mayoral role, speaks during a July 2022 meeting.

Sarasota City Commissioner Liz Alpert, who also currently serves in the city’s ceremonial mayoral role, speaks during a July 2022 meeting.

For former mayor Kyle Battie: a thesaurus with plenty of alternative options for the word “excellent.”

For all development projects within the province: impact fees that cover the actual costs of the necessary infrastructure to accommodate the growth in question.

For Ringling Boulevard: a redesign to replace the recently completed redesign that, at least so far, has confused motorists, endangered cyclists and increased traffic congestion.

For cigar smokers: A ventilated inside location where you can pursue your chosen vice without offending and endangering passersby with second-hand smoke.

Brad Christie, a store employee at the Corona Cigar Company, smokes a stogie at the Corona cigar bar in downtown Sarasota.Brad Christie, a store employee at the Corona Cigar Company, smokes a stogie at the Corona cigar bar in downtown Sarasota.

Brad Christie, a store employee at the Corona Cigar Company, smokes a stogie at the Corona cigar bar in downtown Sarasota.

For registered voters in Sarasota County, a guide to factual information about voters’ beliefs, causes, financial donors, and, if they’ve held office before, voting history — especially for unknown candidates running for obscure offices — so they can better deserve -informed and educated voting choices. (Nothing else will affect the future of our community more.)

To all elected officials, a reminder that the fundamental role of government is to protect the health, welfare, and safety of its citizens.

Above all, as you fly by, Santa, please consider sprinkling a little of that magical elixir you reserve for the children who begin to deny your existence. This year we all need a reason to believe.

Your friend,

Sara Sota

Contact columnist Carrie Seidman at carrie.seidman@gmail.com or 505-238-0392.

This article originally appeared on the Sarasota Herald-Tribune: A Christmas wish list for Sarasota Santa

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