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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Mar. 26, 2004 14 years ago

Coffee Talk (Sara/Mana edition)

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This week's items: Still searching for Entrepreneur 2004 nomineesThe Bennett-McClash clashBennett takes aim at Supreme Court justiceBradenton headed for traffic gridlock

Coffee Talk (Sara/Mana edition)

Still searching for Entrepreneur 2004 nominees

If you know of an outstanding entrepreneur in Sarasota and Manatee counties who deserves recognition as the Gulf Coast Business Review's Entrepreneur 2004 Award winner, we'd like to know his or her name. We're still accepting nominees.

Nominees should be owners and/or top executives of a business or businesses based in Sarasota or Manatee counties. They should be able to show a three-year record of strong sales growth and profitability and an overall story of accomplishment.

Send the names of nominees to: Matt Walsh at [email protected]; (fax) 362-4808; or 650 Central Ave., Sarasota, 34236.

Deadline for nominees is April 9.

Make your reservations today

May 15 is approaching faster than you think. To make reservations for GCBR's Entrepreneur 2004 Award luncheon, you can call GCBR's Karen Hormuth at 941/362-4848. Cost is $30 per person. VISA, Mastercard, American Express are accepted.

The luncheon will be from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. May 15 at the Hyatt Sarasota Resort on Boulevard of the Arts.

The Bennett-McClash clash

More and more, this seems to be a rule of politics: The longer an elected official is in office, the more he becomes a member of an elite class that deserves special treatment. And the corollary to that: the more he forgets that he is a servant, not a master.

Take Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash. Last week, McClash re-ignited the disdain that he and state Sen. Mike Bennett have for each other's politico-economic philosophies. McClash was irritated that Bennett filed a bill codifying in state statutes how impact fees can be used. The bill also contained a provision that would allow counties to adopt a tax on real estate transfer documents instead of impact fees.

What ticked off McClash was that Bennett did not call any of the Manatee County commissioners to let them know he filed a bill that would affect all of Florida's 67 counties.

In response, McClash and his fellow commissioners conducted a 48-minute conference call with Bennett and state Rep. Ron Reagan of Bradenton. The unspoken point of the call was to put Bennett on the spot and take him to task. According to the Bradenton Herald, McClash said, "We are just asking you to involve us." To which Bennett replied: "I've got to be honest with you. I'm not going to do that, so let's move on."

To the uninitiated, Bennett could be portrayed here as the arrogant, elite politician. But then it helps to have context.

Over the years, McClash & Co. have charged ahead on many issues - impact fees, charter government, building height restrictions, to name three - without making any calls to the municipal governments that these issues would have affected. Indeed, when Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston was asked whether he has ever had the courtesy of a "heads up" phone call or meeting from county commissioners about proposed ordinances that would affect his city, guess what? "I never have (received a call)," he says.

And if you ask Poston whether he believes state legislators have an obligation to inform each county or city in their districts about legislation that they file, he says: "No, I don't. What they are asking is the exact job of a lobbyist." North Port City Commissioner Barbara Gross, whose city also is in Bennett's district, says the same thing. "It's a zoo up there," she says of the legislative session in Tallahassee. "There's no way a legislator has the time for that."

And when you talk to Bennett, he'll tell you that within the five counties and 43 municipalities that he represents, not one of them, save for the Manatee County Commission, expects Bennett to alert them to his activities. Bennett says those governments either have their own lobbyists, travel to Tallahassee, visit with him in the district or call him on telephone to talk about issues.

Now, here's the odd thing: Manatee County doesn't have a Tallahassee lobbyist, yet it has one in Washington, D.C. Apparently, McClash and his colleagues don't expect their Washington representatives to phone home. Hmm, why should it be any different for Bennett?

Bennett takes aim at Supreme Court justice

While we're on the Mike Bennett bandwagon, Manatee's state senator is standing up for one of his own - Manatee Clerk of Courts R.B. "Chips" Shore - and apparently isn't afraid to go after bigger powers than he.

Bennett, whose district also covers parts of Sarasota, Desoto, Charlotte and Lee counties, drafted Senate Bill 3060, also known as The "Chips' Shore Memorial Act. The bill calls for the repeal of Florida Chief Justice Harry Lee Anstead's recent administrative order, which imposed a moratorium earlier this month on making public records accessible to the public over the Internet.

The bill also would reinforce "the power to create any exemptions to the public's constitutional right to inspect and copy public records, which includes all judicial records and court records, is vested exclusively in the Legislature." Take that, Mr. Justice!

Bennett hopes the bill will make it through the current legislative session, but he acknowledges it could be difficult given its timing.

"We are not sure if we are going to be able to get it through," Bennett says. He says he'll know by the middle of next week whether the bill can be placed on the agenda.

Bradenton headed for gridlock

For those Sarasotans jealous of Bradenton's relatively congestion free downtown, don't worry. Bradenton residents will soon feel your pain. Bill Theroux, executive director of the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority, says construction on the new $65-million judicial center and its parking garage will be going on at the same time that the city/the Florida Department of Transportation and the Federal Transportation Department will be performing major street improvements on Manatee Avenue from First to 15th streets west.

Construction on the judicial center's 500-space parking garage is scheduled to start in the summer, while the road improvements are slated for December.

"It's going to be gridlock city," says Theroux.

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