From the President’s Desk: Decide The Date

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For nearly 100 years, your Chamber has cultivated Sarasota’s prosperity and quality of life through our members’ business leadership and action. As we enter 2018, that tradition continues. Business leadership, through The Chamber, focuses on two areas: opportunities and problems. It identifies opportunities and removes the problems that would impede them. It also identifies problems and finds opportunities to solve them. Sarasota has a problem, and we are presenting an opportunity to solve it.

The foundation of a representative democracy is rooted in the principle of voter participation. Our democracy suffers when nearly 80% of voters either do not or cannot participate. That is exactly what is happening in the city of Sarasota and the community deserves better.

For decades, the city of Sarasota has held its municipal elections in the spring of odd-numbered years. Those elections tend to draw a voter turnout at or around 20%. During ordinary elections, the turnout is two or three times that.

In the last city election, held in May of 2017, just less than 23% of city voters participated. In the last general election, held in November of 2016, almost 72% of city voters participated. More than 18,000 additional ballots were cast by city voters during the ordinary election.

Interestingly, the city pays additional dollars to hold these off-cycle elections. Each spring election costs the city upwards of $100,000. The city can participate in ordinary, fall elections for free. Business principles wouldn’t have you paying for less than what you could otherwise get for free, and our community shouldn’t either.

Furthermore, what the data shows us is that special, spring elections have a dilutive effect on certain subsets of voters. Along with an overall increase in voter participation, a move to ordinary election cycles would see a significant increase in the composition amongst African-American, Hispanic, and under-30 voters.

In order to move elections to coincide with ordinary elections, the issue must be placed on a ballot for voters to decide whether or not they would like to move the dates. In order for voters to be given that opportunity, 10% of voters must petition the city to do so. It is that opportunity that we are seeking to provide through the Decide the Date initiative. Alongside a number of community partners, we are diligently working to deliver voters the opportunity to choose when they wish to participate in local elections.


It is through your Chamber that this community can work towards being proud of its civic engagement. That, after all, is a quality of life issue and your Chamber stands at the forefront cultivating our quality of life. I encourage you to visit for information and updates on this critical, community initiative. I ask that you reach out to me with any questions you might have. I hope that you will find ways to further support your Chamber as we seek to solve this problem.

Kevin Cooper, Chamber President

The article is taken from the January 2018 Bridge Magazine.

To read more from this issue, click here.

January 2018

Council Spotlight: City Priorities Council

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City Priorities Council Members go Above and Beyond!

The City Priorities Council (CPC) focuses on strategic economic development planning and partnerships that benefit the continuing revitalization of the City of Sarasota.  The CPC, currently chaired by Lee DeLieto, Jr., has over 40 members and meets on a monthly basis discussing a variety of issues like Bayfront 20:20, form based code and the pedestrian sleeve.

But what really makes the CPC incredible is the dedication and involvement of the members who use their free time and expertise to remain active in The Chamber as well as City matters. The CPC recently began publicly noticing meetings because so many members serve on various City of Sarasota advisory boards.  These boards encompass critical areas including downtown improvement, affordable housing, planning and parking.  Our members are not only involved in Chamber activities, but provide a crucial link to the local government. They act to bring information back to the CPC, to better education and inform decisions, as well as providing a business point of view to governmental decision makers.

Chris GallagherChris Gallagher, a past-chair of The Chamber a well as the CPC, has served on City and County advisory boards for 20 years.  Chris, a partner at HOYT Architects, currently serves on numerous advisory boards including the Planning Board and the Affordable Housing Committee. “Like most people in this great community of ours, I want to protect, preserve, and enhance the things that make this place so special. As Chamber members we know that protecting, preserving, and enhancing quality of life happens most powerfully in communities with robust economies.”  Chris feels it is essential that Chamber members get involved in serving on advisory boards because “they are actively involved in the daily economic life of the community and it is critical that they are a part of the conversations at the advisory board level.”

pat gannonPatrick Gannon, another CPC member, serves on the City Planning Board and the Downtown Improvement District Expansion Adhoc Committee.  Patrick also serves as President of the Downtown Sarasota Condo Association and can generally be seen at almost every city public meeting.  He remains an active member of the CPC because it “is a great way to stay abreast of what is happening in the business community as well as the local residential neighborhoods, and to understand how the needs of these groups are affected by government decisions.”

City Priority Members include: Peter Abbott, Charlie Bailey, Stefan Baron, Roger Barry, Alan Bennett, John Compton, Howard Davis, Lee DeLieto, Jr., Any Dorr, Shawn Dressler, Sean Duade, Brad Ellis, Bill English, Ethan Frizzell, Chris Gallagher, Patrick Gannon, Susan Goldstein, Norm Gollub, Michael Halflants, Eleana Hall, Greg Hall, Eileen Hampshire, Jedd Heap, Courtney Hudak, David Hutchinson, Nancy Kelly, Ronda Kitchens, Diane Lawson, Anthony Manganiello, Ronald McCollough, Richael Parisi, Michael Perkinson, Steve Queior, Ernie Ritz, Tish Scott, Tony Souza, Martin Taffel, Herb Waltzer, Renada Washington, and Robert Young.

We appreciate all of our CPC members who go above and beyond to give their time and expertise to both The Chamber and the local community.  Because of members like this, we all win!