Master: Is all growth good?
Student (thinks for awhile): Yes, I suppose all growth is good.
Master: Isn’t that the thinking of a cancer cell?
When it comes to land use and changing the 2050 plan, often the conversation doesn’t go deep. Those who claim to be “pro-business” equate building with growth, and all growth is good, right? Those who challenge a project or land use change are labeled “anti-growth.” This approach doesn’t make Sarasota thrive. It won’t create superior development and the economic diversification we want. If your goal is excellence, you consider all angles, gather the best information and develop policies which result in superior outcomes.
How do we get there? Measure our land-use policy outcomes. County Commissioners could learn a lot from how Sarasota Memorial Hospital operates.
Years ago, when Duncan Finlay became CEO, Sarasota Memorial created a mission statement. It reads: “Our community will be served by the best health care system in America. SMHCS will be the best place to be a patient, …to work, and …to practice medicine. Our extraordinary people, our innovative clinical technology, and our effective use of information systems will set us apart.” SMH walks their talk. Its website lists numerous national awards for clinical excellence. During my 20 years in pharmaceuticals, I called on hospitals all over the US. SMH is a different animal. It functions more like a University hospital than a community hospital. It’s impressive.
Sarasota Memorial commits to protocols that improve patient care. Their largest payer, Medicare, holds hospitals accountable. If a hospital’s patient outcomes are poor—for example if too many patients are re-admitted 30 days after a procedure with a complication—Medicare reduces or refuses reimbursement. SMH embraces best practices. Excellent clinical outcomes result and taxpayers benefit. The resulting savings and improvement for our health, our lives, is tangible.
Turning to Sarasota 2050, there is groundbreaking data measuring how land-use policy impacts community prosperity. Joe Minicozzi, a leading author of some of this work, gained national attention for a project using Sarasota County’s property tax data! After studying Sarasota’s property tax and infrastructure records, he found it took 42 years for a suburban single-family home in Sarasota to pay off it’s infrastructure needs (longer than the life of the infrastructure). Communities all over the US are using Minicozzi’s analysis to develop their comprehensive plans and inviting him to speak and review their policies. Minicozzi shows how the right mix of development creates value and community wealth.
Charles Marohn is another thought leader in land-use policy outcomes. He documented how typical development patterns deliver a boost to community coffers for the first eight years, but once the infrastructure bills start coming due, the tax revenue generated doesn’t cover expenses. To meet new expenses, new development is approved. Marohn calls the problem “the Growth Ponzi Scheme.”
When County Commissioners decided to hire a consultant to evaluate 2050’s fiscal neutrality policy, Minicozzi or Marohn weren’t considered. Their data is absent from proposed 2050 revisions. SMH leadership would invite thought leaders like Minicozzi and Marohn to give lectures, and incorporate their recommendations into policy. Instead, our Commission is relying on 2050 landowners and their reps (like Kimley-Horn) to shape land-use policy. Insane.
We need leaders who will deliver excellence. Lourdes Ramirez and Shannon Snyder are committed to best practices in land use outcomes. Alan Maio and Paul Caraguilo are heavily bankrolled by the cache of developers who will benefit from 2050 changes which have no basis in sound, unbiased analysis—those who want to keep the Ponzi scheme going at our expense. In the end, voters hold the Commission accountable. It’s up to us
Graph from the website The Price of Sprawl, How Overdevelopment Robs You