By the numbers, Sarasota’s downtown redevelopment efforts are a huge success. Yet, as Vice Mayor Suzanne Atwell reminded her fellow commissioners last week, much work remains undone. From the Ringling shopping plaza, to judicial center expansion, to the bayfront, Newtown and the North Trail, hoped-for projects await funding, partnerships and the political will to move forward.
All of these projects could spur revitalization, bolster the city and county tax bases and help meet future quality-of-life needs. But the city can’t accomplish them alone; it needs private-sector interest as well as significant cooperation from county government, which controls important funding levers. For example, the city (population 53,000) wants the county’s downtown administrative offices to stay and grow there, but responsibility for those buildings lies with the county (population 390,000).
These two separate government entities — city and county — are often at odds, but both are supposed to serve the public. They need to work together, respecting each other’s jurisdictions and meeting community needs. In areas where their interests overlap, such as economic revitalization, they should seize the opportunity to partner up and reap mutual benefits.