For decades, there has been a tension in Sarasota between the haves and the have nots, leading to the anecdote often tossed into discussions that many years ago when one of the former was queried as to who would cut their lawns if the latter could not afford to live in the city, he supposedly responded with "Let them live in Bradenton," the Gulf Coast equivalent to "Let them eat cake," one supposes.
One of the first things I noticed when I moved to this town were the gated developments rising all over the county. My Northern brain could not comprehend the wall upon wall before me when there was so little crime. Alas, at the time I was blissfully oblivious to the wannabe factor. A town of aspiring social climbers, many of whose entire capital resulted from the sale of the Long Island Cape Cod and others whose only endowment is a decided talent for self-aggrandizement, has no room for real people, for the gritty, messy, unraveled ends of humanity.
It strikes me that if this crew has its way, and it has taken over the centers of legal authority, all of Sarasota will morph into a over-sized Longboat Key. For the uninitiated, there is not a single foot of undeveloped, unobstructed beachfront not in private hands on Longboat, unless you include the small patch of public beach with no parking for miles. That'll keep the riff-raff out. There is also nary a poor person on the island. But it is the grass that seizes my imagination. Mile after mile of lawn is so manicured and uniform in color that it resembles nothing more than a carpet, as if no blade of grass would dare defy the strictures of the place by growing wild or unevenly.
So where are we now? Well, we have the use of public funds in the name of parking spaces for development projects of near million dollar condos. Then there are the temperance society smoking laws: no smoking on the beaches, no county employment for smokers. And now apparently we have the parking laws. The latest front in the war against the poor is the parking ban in Gillespie Park, a working class neighborhood, too close to the gentrified downtown for its own good. From now on, parking is limited to driveways and the streets. It is hinted that the same will befall the rest of Sarasota. Sounds logical, doesn't it? I mean, nobody wants to live next to the Jukes with the rusting hulks on the lawn or the immigrants of questionable legal status who live dorm style in a two bedroom cottage.
That is the problem. Each proposal sounds reasonable but carries with it more and more erosion of the live and let live atmosphere that once characterized the place. To many people, it is just code for another measure to make it more difficult for the working class, many of whom have about five feet of driveway and at least two cars of whatever vintage. If nothing else, it is symptomatic of the prissiness that is taking over our lives, here in Paradise.
I stand to gain nothing in this discussion, as I have no garage or driveway. Lucky for me, I don't live in Gillespie Park, either. But they will come for me, fear not.
The Sarasota Herald Tribune has done some solid reporting here. Good column here.