The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 17 No. 22 - March 15, 2017


Business regulation bills meet local objection

ANNA MARIA – The City Commission and the ManaSota League of Cities want Florida legislators to know they oppose the current legislative efforts to limit cities' ability to regulate local businesses.

Both entities adopted resolutions last week that state in writing their opposition to House Bill 17 and Senate Bill 1158.

The bills

HB 17 was co-sponsored by Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay) and Paul Renner (R-Palm Coast). Sen. Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) sponsored the companion bill, SB 1158.

HB 17 says a local government may not impose additional regulations on a business, occupation or profession or modify existing regulations except to repeal or reduce the regulation. It also says local business regulations adopted before July 1, 2017, would expire on July 1, 2020.

SB 1158 states the legislative or governing body of a county may not ban the sale of a good or service; impose a penalty on the sale of a good or service; require an employer to pay a wage rate that is not otherwise required under special, general or federal law. The Senate bill also states no local regulations could be adopted that have an adverse impact on economic growth, private sector job creation, private sector investment or business competitiveness.

Both bills must survive all preliminary committee votes and be supported by the respective legislative bodies to be enacted as law in July. If either bill falls short, both bills would be considered dead.

Anna Maria objects

On Thursday, March 9, the City Commission expressed unanimous support for a resolution requested by Mayor Dan Murphy.

"HB 17 prohibits counties and municipalities from adopting or imposing new regulations on a business, profession, or occupation; requires the repeal of existing regulations; and establishes a preemption of the city of Anna Maria's ability to act on local problems and opportunities. SB 1158 preempts to the Florida legislature the city of Anna Maria's authority to adopt and enforce certain ordinances or regulations relating to commerce, trade or labor," the resolution states.

"SB 1158 and HB 17 thwart the ability of the city of Anna Maria to respond in a timely matter to matters of local importance and shifts local matters to the Florida legislature, making it difficult for local citizens to effectively petition for change. The city commission of Anna Maria requests the members of the Florida legislature oppose HB 17 and SB 1158," the resolution concludes.

The resolution will be sent to members of the Manatee County legislative delegation, the Florida League of Cities and other interested parties.

Widespread concerns

When discussing the potential hiring of a lobbyist on March 2, Bradenton Beach Vice Mayor John Chappie cited HB 17 as one of the bills that concerned him. Chappie also sits on the board of the ManaSota League of Cities. During the league's March 9 meeting, Chappie and the other eight voting members unanimously supported a resolution that expresses the league's opposition to both bills.

"HB 17 and SB 1158 contradict the will of the people of Florida, who expressed an unequivocal desire for broad Home Rule powers in the constitution. State legislators may find themselves spending increasing amounts of time arbitrating over local problems and legislating on local issues, and less time attending to pressing statewide needs. The ManaSota League of Cities believe opposition to HB 17 and SB 1158 would be in the best interest of the residents and businesses of municipalities and the state of Florida. The ManaSota League of Cities urges all members of the Florida legislature to oppose the adoption of HB 17 and SB 1158," the resolution states.

The resolution will be sent to the Florida League of Cities and the local legislative delegations for Manatee and Sarasota counties.

Holmes Beach readies to welcome spring breakers

HOLMES BEACH — Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer wants spring breakers to be safe and mind the rules while visiting the city.

HBPD officers are preparing for a growing number of visitors to Anna Maria Island over the coming weeks as spring break ramps up, continuing through March 27. As a part of that preparation, Tokajer has a few reminders for residents and visitors to help keep the community safe.

Beach regulations

Glass bottles and alcoholic beverages are not permitted on the beach. Officers have a zero tolerance policy for underage drinking anywhere in the city. Open fires and grills also are prohibited on all Island beaches. Pets are not allowed on the beach.

Tokajer also advises beachgoers to not leave valuables on the beach unattended, even if placed under a towel or in a bag.

Holmes Beach enforces a noise curfew from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. nightly.

Vehicle safety

HBPD officers remind all residents and visitors to lock vehicles and take all keys when leaving the car. Keep all valuables out of sight when leaving the vehicle. If placing valuables in the trunk, Tokajer advises placing the items in the trunk before parking where the action could potentially be viewed by thieves.

Vehicles should always be parked in the direction of traffic, and drivers should scan the area for No Parking signs before leaving the vehicle. Parking is not allowed on or within 20 feet of a crosswalk, within 30 feet of an intersection, on sidewalks or in bike paths.

Pets are not allowed to be left unattended in vehicles for any amount of time.

With an averages of 16,400 vehicles on Island roads daily, Tokajer said drivers should plan for traffic delays.

"Plan to leave a few minutes early and have patience," he said. "It will save you a lot of stress."

Bicycle safety

Bicyclists are advised to obey all traffic signs and signals. Cyclists must ride in the same direction as traffic. Cyclists riding on sidewalks must give the right of way to pedestrians and give an audible warning when passing.

While bicycles can be ridden in vehicle lanes, cyclists are asked to ride as close as possible to the edge of the roadway and not impede traffic.

Bicycles used at night are required to have a white light on the front and both a red light and reflector on the back.

All riders under the age of 16 must wear a helmet.

Golf cart safety

All golf cart drivers are required to have a valid driver's license. Golf carts can be driven between sunrise and sunset on Island roads with speed limits of 25 miles per hour or less.

Low speed vehicles, those with a valid department of motor vehicles registration and license plate, can be driven on roads with a speed limit of 35 mph or less. All passengers are required to wear a seat belt.

Golf carts and low speed vehicles are not allowed to be driven on sidewalks.

For more information, or to report suspicious activity, contact the HBPD at 941-778-2677.

Jason Sato does it again

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story


Jason Sato credits local roots, a great staff and a strong
market for becoming the top selling real estate agent
in Manatee County.

ANNA MARIA – For the second year in a row, Anna Maria Island real estate agent Jason Sato sold more real estate than any other agent in Manatee County. Sato, who is co-owner of Sato Real Estate, credits attitude for his success as well as a good team.

"We have a good staff working in the office," he said. "They free me up to show and sell homes."

He said one addition made that easier for him.

"We brought in Sandy Shahinian to do marketing," he said. "That really helped me."

Sato said the office staff is like family, and customers feel more comfortable when they are there, plus the office is located in a historic house.

He said they continue to get referrals from past customers, and sometimes the past customers become customers again.

"Some of them rented a house and found out they wanted to spend more time here," he said "They buy a house and rent it out when they're not in it."

He said customers they have appreciate the fact that Sato Real Estate is locally owned and specializes on Island properties. He also said new construction is popular for investors.

"When they buy a home, especially to rent, they don't want to spend money to fix something on the property."

What does he consider his key to success?

"Be connected," he answered. "When you sell property, do it full time. I work seven days a week."

That doesn't mean he neglects his family. He has two sons and a six-month-old daughter, and their grandmother, Barb Sato, works with him.

Sato said he likes to limit his field; he likes to sell Island properties.

"I don't know much about the mainland or Longboat Key," he said. "I was born here and grew up here. I went to Anna Maria Elementary School and hung out at the Community Center as a kid."

And he still considers it paradise, as well as his home.

Vosburgh applies for planning board

The Thursday, March 16 Bradenton Beach Commission meeting will start at noon and begin with former city residents Frank Harrison and Priscilla VonAhnen receiving certificates of appreciation.

The commission will discuss an information packet pertaining to two vacation rental bills (SB 188 and HB 425) and consider a dock permit for 2312 Canasta Drive.

The commission also is expected to appoint former commissioner Jan Vosburgh to the Planning and Zoning Board and commissioners will discuss the selection of new chairs to sit on during their meetings. The city attorney will present the final reading of the amended anchorage and mooring ordinance, the first reading of local business tax increase ordinance, a resolution pertaining to the proposed Coquina Beach fitness trail project and provide an update on a policing innovation plan.

Bond hearing for murder suspect continued

BRADENTON – Before a packed courthouse, the bond hearing for accused murderer Eugene Matthews, 84, was continued after District Judge Deno Economou said the defense attorney and prosecutor were using evidence from the upcoming trial to convince him to set bond so Matthews could get out of jail before his trial.

The courthouse was packed because a large number of Rebecca Rawson's friends and family were present to show their support for not letting Matthews out of jail, according to several of them who did not want to be identified.

Rebecca Rawson, 65, was killed on Jan. 10 as she came to Matthews' residence in Parrish to pick up her dog, after she left it with Matthews so she could tend to family problems. Rawson lived and worked on Anna Maria Island before moving to the mainland. She was a hair stylist and worked at several businesses on the Island.

According to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office report of the incident, Rawson was driving the car with her daughter, Kathryn, and brother in law, Rodney. When she pulled up to the house, Juanita Sills, who lives there, opened the door and Rodney Rawson called for the dog. The dog came outside, and Rodney Rawson picked it up and went toward the car. That's when Matthews came outside and fired two rounds from a pistol into the air. He then shot a round toward the car, and it hit Rebecca Rawson in the face. The vehicle subsequently backed up and crashed into a gate. Rodney Rawson tried to get the pistol out of Matthews' hand and another round was fired before he succeeded.

At the hearing, defense attorney D. Scott Rieth alleged the Sheriff's Office report did not include the fact that Rawson crashed through the closed gate to get to Matthews' house. That allegation was the evidence that caused Judge Economou to continue the hearing until Rieth and prosecutor Darlene Ragoonan could present arguments without using evidence in the proceedings.

There was no date set to resume the hearing. After the hearing, Kathryn Rawson broke down and had to be assisted out of court.

Police officers address safety issues

Kristin Swain | Sun

Holmes Beach Det. Sgt. Brian Hall, Sgt. Vern McGowan,
Sgt. Mike Pilato and Chief Bill Tokajer host a public forum
March 9 at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

HOLMES BEACH – Police Chief Bill Tokajer reports a decrease in crime, but says residents and visitors should still be concerned about safety.

Tokajer and other HBPD officers hosted a public forum March 9 at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive. Officers discussed hot topics, such as speed limits and parking, and addressed concerns from the public before taking attendees on a tour of the police station. The primary theme of the forum was public and personal safety.

"Not everyone who visits our community is very nice," Tokajer said.

While the city has been enjoying an overall decrease in crime over the past four years, 2016 showed an increase in burglaries that has officers urging residents and visitors to take precautions.

Det. Sgt. Brian Hall said some of the things people should be on the lookout for are suspicious people roaming neighborhoods and fraudsters who promise to do work on a property and take money without completing the task.

He encouraged everyone to take photos of valuables and record serial numbers for electronics to assist police in the event of a theft.

"Report a break-in right away," Hall said. He also asked that, in the event of a break-in, homeowners wait for police to arrive before touching or cleaning anything to preserve the crime scene.

Sgt. Vern McGowan gave attendees tips on how to keep their homes safe from break-ins, including trimming hedges to allow for better visibility and adding auxiliary locks to sliding doors and windows. For homeowners concerned about the safety of their property, he said officers will come out and do a security assessment of the property.

While homeowners are absent, for a $10 fee officers will visit the property to check security at least twice per week.

Sgt. Mike Pilato said another way officers are protecting the community is by being visible in the streets and at public places.

"The bad guys see us," he said. "They know we're out there."

Since HBPD doesn't have access to license plate recognition software, Pilato said drivers may see officers in their trucks manually running license plates as vehicles go by to catch drivers with expired or stolen tags, stolen vehicles and those with active warrants.

"Our main objective is to gain compliance," he said. "Our objective is not to write someone a ticket."

In 2016, HBPD officers issued 992 traffic tickets, 239 warnings and 2,166 parking tickets.

"The first thing you have to do when pulled over is check your attitude," Tokajer said. He added it's up to the officers in some instances to decide whether to issue a ticket or a warning. Aggressive drivers are more likely to receive a ticket.

In addition to traffic and parking enforcement, Tokajer said officers will be ramping up crosswalk enforcement to protect pedestrians crossing city streets. Officers will be looking for drivers who do not stop for pedestrians.

Other HBPD traffic initiatives include enforcing parking laws and looking for drivers without seatbelts.

In addition to Tokajer, the HBPD has 15 sworn officers who work in 12 hour shifts.

"Every officer we have is top of the line," he said.

For more information on services offered by officers or to report a crime, contact the HBPD at 941-778-COPS (2677).

Mayor's FPL stance finds support


These two poles in Bradenton Beach
illustrate Mayor Dan Murphy's concerns
about old poles being left behind
and sometimes cut off after being
replaced by new poles.

ANNA MARIA – The Anna Maria Commission supports Mayor Dan Murphy's decision to deny right of way work permits to Florida Power and Light (FPL) for the replacement of power poles along Gulf Drive and elsewhere in the city.

Murphy recently told FPL the city would not issue the work permits until FPL provides a plan that details how and when the existing poles will be removed. Murphy said he is not going to allow the old poles to remain in place, as is the case in Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach.

"I wanted to let you know where I was coming from. I'm adamant about the fact that they have a plan and remove the old poles and not leave them like they did in the other cities. Those are our right of ways," Murphy told the commission.

"I support you 100 percent," said Commission Chair Doug Copeland.

Commissioner Carol Carter noted that some of the poles that were replaced but not removed in the other cities still have rolls of black wire hanging from them.

Murphy also denied FPL's request to begin the work in April, which is still peak season in terms of tourism.

"They did Bradenton Beach last year during peak season and it was a disaster trying to get up and down Gulf Drive," Commissioner Brian Seymour said.

Bills pass to rein in Visit Florida, kill Enterprise Florida

TALLAHASSEE – In the first week of the Florida Legislative session, the House of Representatives has overwhelmingly approved bills to make state's tourism agency, Visit Florida, more accountable, and eliminate the state's economic development agency, Enterprise Florida.

The Visit Florida bill, which passed 80-35 on Friday, would require the agency to raise private funds to get equivalent matching state funds and require performance standards, operating budgets and employee salaries to be included in contracts with businesses or governmental agencies that receive public funds from the state or from tourist taxes.

It also would allow the Legislature to reject proposed contracts worth $750,000 or more, remove the state's public records exemption for marketing and research projects and require the governor to approve out-of-state and international travel, among other changes.

The regulations are in part a response to a secret $1 million Visit Florida music video contract with Miami music artist Pitbull, uncovered in a 2016 lawsuit filed by Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R-Land O'Lakes), who filed the original bill.

Passing 87-28 the same day, the Enterprise Florida bill would eliminate the agency, a response to accusations that the agency unfairly favors large over small companies, among other criticisms.

The proposals would require transferring Visit Florida operations from Enterprise Florida to the state Department of Economic Opportunity.

Gov. Rick Scott, who asked the Legislature for $76 million for Visit Florida this year and $85 million for Enterprise Florida, said in his State of the State address three days before the vote, "I want to be very clear in acknowledging that both Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida have made mistakes along with their many successes over the years … but, just like we would do in the business world, we have made changes at both agencies so the organizations can be more efficient and transparent.

"Any CEO or business owner will tell you that mistakes are made sometimes. But, you don't just give up and shut down, and take your ball and go home. You figure out what the problem is and fix it."

"Visit Florida has been responsible for recruiting record numbers of visitors – including a record of nearly 113 million last year," he continued. "Will Florida still have tourists if we stop advertising? Sure. But we will have less. And that means less jobs, less tax revenues and less of everything."

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