Jan. 4, 2022 the date for Sarasota County Legislative Delegation to vote on whether to support Siesta Key incorporation initiative

Approximately 600 people ‘pack the house’ for Dec. 8 town hall meeting with Delegation members

People crowd into the meeting room at Siesta Key Chapel for the Dec. 8 Sarasota County Legislative Delegation town hall event about Siesta Key incorporation. Image courtesy of Save Siesta Key via Facebook

The members of the Sarasota County Legislative Delegation have decided to conduct a meeting on Jan. 4, 2022 in downtown Sarasota to consider whether to advocate for the incorporation of Siesta Key during the 2022 session of the Florida Legislature.

That was the news provided to approximately 600 people who attended the Dec. 8 town hall meeting hosted by Delegation members at Siesta Key Chapel, Tracy Jackson, a member of the board of Save Siesta Key, told The Sarasota News Leader on Dec. 9.

A spokesman in the Bradenton office of state Rep. Will Robinson Jr., R-Bradenton, chair of the Sarasota Delegation, reported to the News Leader that the Delegation still will meet at 9 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 13, in the County Commission Chambers of the County Administration Center in downtown Sarasota. However, the spokesman said, it was his understanding from senior staffers that the Delegation members have so many issues to address on that agenda, they felt that a separate meeting should be scheduled to vote on the proposal for Siesta Key incorporation.

The nonprofit Save Siesta Key has been working since spring to rally island residents and business owners in the effort to create the Town of Siesta Key. The initiative applies only to the portion of the island within Sarasota County’s jurisdiction.

The Jan. 4, 2022 Delegation meeting tentatively has been scheduled for 5:30 p.m., the spokesman for Robinson added. It, too, will be held in the Commission Chambers located at 1660 Ringling Blvd., he said.

During the Dec. 9 telephone interview with the News Leader, Jackson of Save Siesta Key talked about the excitement she and her fellow board members felt when they saw the crowd the previous night for the town hall session. “We packed the house,” she said.

The nonprofit’s Facebook page on Dec. 9 showed that crowd. The post noted, “STANDING ROOM ONLY!”

It added, “We were finally heard.”

During a Dec. 5 rally, supporters of incorporation marched from Siesta Public Beach to Stickney Point Road, carrying signs and chanting, “Hear our voice. Let us vote.”

The Save Siesta Key Facebook page noted, “Turnout for the walk was stellar,” adding that the nonprofit’s directors were hoping to see even more people at the town hall event.

Save Siesta Key supporters gather in the parking lot at Siesta Key Public Beach on Dec. 5. Image courtesy of Save Siesta Key via Facebook

All but two of the Delegation members were present on Dec. 8 to see the crowd, Jackson said. Those unable to attend were Rep. James Buchanan, R-Osprey, and Rep. Michele K. Rayner, D-St. Petersburg, Jackson told the News Leader.

Initially, Jackson said, about 500 people were seated inside the meeting room at Siesta Key Chapel. When Save Siesta Key Director Harry Anand began speaking, Jackson continued, a woman among those standing outside called to those inside, saying she and the others wanted to be able to hear the proceedings, too. Therefore, the Delegation members and Save Siesta Key representatives invited them to come in, telling them they could stand in the aisles or take any other available space they could find.

Moreover, Jackson pointed out, when state Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, asked how many of the audience members were in favor of incorporation, only about three people failed to raise their hands.

“The crowd went wild,” she said.

Save Siesta Key leaders had sent out multiple email blasts over the past couple of weeks, urging a strong showing at the Dec. 8 meeting. Their goal, they said, was to demonstrate widespread support for incorporation. They hoped that the Delegation members would be sufficiently impressed to vote unanimously for the necessary local bills to be introduced in the 2022 Legislative session.

Everyone in the Delegation must approve of the filing of those bills, Save Siesta Key Director Anand has stressed. Otherwise, incorporation will not be considered during the 2022 session, which begins on Jan. 11.

Even if the bills are heard in the state House and Senate, they must win passage in both Chambers. Then Gov. Ron DeSantis must sign the resulting measure, so a referendum can be conducted on incorporation.

If, at the minimum, 50% of Siesta voters, plus one, participating in that referendum support incorporation, Save Siesta Key leaders say the island’s municipal operations would begin in January 2023.

Another Save Siesta Key rally is planned on Sunday, Dec. 12, starting at 11 a.m. Everyone is asked to gather at the south end of the public beach parking lot. This time, the plan is for supporters to march to Davidson Drugs in Siesta Village.

People march for incorporation on Dec. 5. Image courtesy of Save Siesta Key via Facebook

John Davidson, who founded Davidson Drugs, is the chair of Save Siesta Key.

More details about the Dec. 8 town hall meeting will be provided in the Dec. 17 issue of the News Leader.