“Decide the Date” petition may be behind City Commissioner’s “outburst”


SARASOTA – Sarasota Chamber of Commerce CEO Kevin Cooper says the “Decide the Date” petition effort raised nearly a thousand more signatures required to put the matter on the November referendum.  So, what happens next?

“Once the petition initiative itself is successful, there’s a series of decisions the commission has to make. The two most significant ones are what will the ballot language look like so when someone steps in the ballot box what will they be reading in terms of the decision they are making. The second piece is the implementation which says if this thing passes how do we conduct ourselves in the wake of it passing,” said Cooper.

Cooper says roughly 83% of the forty-seven hundred people who signed the petition were white and nearly 10% were black. The remaining 7 percent was made up of Hispanic and other races.

Is that what caused an outburst at the June 18th commission meeting?

We don’t know for sure if Commissioner Willie Shaw was reacting to these lopsided decidedly white numbers, because he was unavailable for comment.  But last week Shaw had this to say:

“I’m one of them little colored folks that all you white folks done spoke  for that don’t understand none of this. Since all y’all done spoke and told me how many of us gone vote for y’all and for everybody else, but ain’t nobody splain nothing to me. I can’t see what ‘A’, ‘B’, nor ‘C’ does for me,” said Shaw in June 18th’s meeting.

Shaw told the Herald-Tribune Monday he had no further comment.  He also told the newspaper there would be no apology, as requested by commission Hagan Brody.

For Cooper, it all comes down to voter turnout.

“I think one of the aggravating factors that causes people to question this over time is  traditionally city elections have a turnout of below 20%. What we saw in the spring election of 2017 was voter turnout just over 23% that was a record turnout we’d never seen nothing like it before when you move elections to the fall of even number years in the city itself what you end up seeing is 60-70% voting turn out,” said Cooper.

If the city election dates are changed, they would move from March and May of odd years to August and November of even years.

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Jessika Ward is a Sarasota native and an award-winning multimedia journalist. She joined the Suncoast News Network in February of 2018 and is happy to be back in her hometown. Jessika won three Florida Associated Press Awards while a student at Florida A&M University. Prior to coming to SNN, Jessika interned with WWSB ABC7 and worked as a videographer/editor at WTXL ABC27 in Tallahassee. ​​Jessika Ward is a proud rattler and Historically Black College and University (HBCU) advocate. She shares her HBCU experience in "Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities,” a documentary about the history and future of HBCU's that was presented in the Sundance Film Festival and aired on PBS. Jessika's hobbies include photography, watching independent films, watching sports, and reading a good book.


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