We the Gulf Coast Builder’s Exchange, in order to form a more perfect city….
No, the freshly minted proposed charter for the City of Sarasota doesn’t begin this way, but the assertion that this latest strong mayor effort is a grassroots initiative strains credibility. Setting aside the merits and flaws of the proposed charter, the group “It’s Time Sarasota” has made questionable decisions and claims in this fourth(!) effort to install an elected mayor. Their decisions are enough to have City residents wondering and asking whether once again significant community time and energy is being channeled toward an outcome with little regard for “we the people.”
Rather than register with the City, the “It’s Time Sarasota” political action committee (PAC) is registered in Tallahassee. Their treasurer, David Ramba, is a veteran Tallahassee lobbyist with an independent consulting firm, Ramba Consulting Group. Mr. Ramba manages a number of PACs and the following funding maneuvers were reported regarding a 2013 Manatee County referendum:
1. The Ramba-managed PAC Veterans for Conservative Principles received $65,000 from Greenpoint Investors, located at 200 S. Orange Avenue in Sarasota.
2. Ramba’s Veterans for Conservative Principles gave $65,000 to the Eric Robinson-managed PAC The Committee to Protect Florida’s Seniors.
3. Manatee Against Taxation, a PAC also registered to Eric Robinson, received $65,000 from The Committee to Protect Florida’s Seniors (the 65K comprised it’s entire budget).
This PAC funding shell game was executed to fund the successful opposition to the June 2013 Manatee County sales tax referendum that would have raised millions of dollars to pay for indigent health care. Eric Robinson is a former Sarasota County GOP chair. The ultimate donor, Greenpoint Investors, is not registered in Florida, despite it’s Sarasota address, and media requests for information about the firm’s registration have been denied. It appears Ramba participated in an effort to successfully hide PAC funding from public view. Ramba’s role as treasurer for the “It’s Time Sarasota” elected mayor PAC raises serious credibility questions.
Two members of the elected mayor PAC are employed by the Gulf Coast Builder’s Exchange. Since when do grassroots activists invite industry lobbyists to write a local constitution?
Six members of the elected mayor PAC list affiliations with neighborhood associations, yet none of the neighborhood associations listed have passed resolutions of support for this elected mayor initiative. Those neighborhood associations continue to be listed on the website, despite a formal request three weeks ago from the City Coalition of Neighborhood Associations to remove the misleading neighborhood association names.
Two County Commissioners whose districts include the City are members of the “It’s Time Sarasota” PAC and apparently participated in these decisions. It’s particularly concerning that these elected officials would endorse bypassing PAC registration with the City of Sarasota in favor of Tallahassee. Why?
The “It’s Time Sarasota” PAC is asking City voters to supplant a City Charter that is the result of decades of community collaboration. Without even looking at the proposed Charter, there is plenty of reason for City voters to be skeptical.