Leaders of Siesta Key incorporation effort to conduct ‘straw vote’ and stressing the need for another $45,000 in donations

Ballots to be delivered to registered voters on the Key in mid-November

Both the Siesta Key Association (SKA) and the Siesta Key Condominium Council (SKCC) have informed their members that the nonprofit organization working for the incorporation of most of the barrier island is going to conduct a straw poll this month on that proposal, via mail-in ballots.

The board of directors of Save Siesta Key hopes that the result of the vote will demonstrate that the majority of Siesta Key residents “want the opportunity to vote on whether to incorporate the island,” the SKA and the Council have emphasized in recent email blasts to their members.

At the same time, the leaders of Save Siesta Key are seeking about $45,000 more in donations to cover all of the expenses the nonprofit is incurring as it works on incorporation for the second consecutive year.

The nonprofit’s Oct. 27 email blast about its financial situation said that Save Siesta Key directors need the funds “to get us through to January when the next local delegation vote takes place so that we may ensure a successful campaign.”

That statement referred to the expectation that the four members of the Sarasota County Legislative Delegation — state Sen. Joe Gruters and the three state House members — will vote early next year on whether to file the necessary local bill to formally launch the incorporation effort in the Florida Legislature.

In January, when the Delegation comprised six members, the vote on introducing the local bill resulted in a 3-3 tie.

As of early afternoon on Nov. 7, Save Siesta Key’s website showed that the directors had raised $49,907 through 136 donations. Their goal is $100,000, the website adds.

By late morning on Nov. 10, Save Siesta Key said it had received 153 contributions totaling $55,334.

In regard to the straw vote: The mail-in ballots are expected to be delivered to all registered Siesta Key voters at their Siesta Key addresses, the SKA and Condominium Council emails explain.

“As many know,” the email blasts add, “it is critical to get a majority vote of the delegation in order to send our local bill to Tallahassee. The [Save Siesta Key] SSK board has been strongly encouraged by our delegation to put it to a straw vote.”

Last year, Rep. Tommy Gregory, R-Sarasota, told leaders of Save Siesta Key, “Make your case a lot more persuasive” by conducting a straw poll of registered island voters. “Collect 50% plus 1” from them, Gregory added.

The SKA and Council emails said that registered Siesta voters should get their straw ballots between Nov. 14 and Nov. 17.

Prior to that, the emails added, each registered voter should receive a postcard alerting the individual to expect the ballot. That postcard will include a picture of the envelope, so that the ballot “is not mistaken as ‘junk mail’ and discarded,” the emails pointed out.

Each straw ballot will contain a first class, self-addressed, postage-paid envelope for the voter to use in returning the ballot, the emails continued.

The ballots will go to the law firm of Persson, Cohen, Mooney, Fernandez and Jackson in Lakewood Ranch, where they will be tallied, the emails added. “We are taking this extra step so that there is no accusation of fraud or misconstrued results,” the emails said.

“We are asking that the ballots be mailed no later than December 8th, 2022,” the emails further noted.

The results of the straw vote will be made public on the Save Siesta Key website and provided to the news media as soon as they are available, the emails added.

The directors also are stressing that the straw vote “will be used as a demonstration that the majority of the residents of Siesta Key desire an official vote in 2023 on the subject of incorporation.”

If the majority of the Sarasota County Legislative Delegation members agree to introduce a local bill on the incorporation of Siesta Key into the 2023 legislative session, the full House of Representatives and the full Senate will vote on it, the emails explained. If the bill passes in both chambers, then the governor would have to sign it before a formal referendum on incorporation could be scheduled, the emails pointed out.

“If you are a registered voter and don’t receive a ballot, please call 941-287-0824 with your contact information and we will work with the attorneys to get you a ballot,” the emails emphasized.

The need for funding support

In asking for donations, the leaders of Save Siesta Key have noted the following efforts in which they have been engaged:

  • The revamping the feasibility study required for any incorporation proposal and the revising of the draft Town of Siesta Key Charter, which has been handled by professional consultants.
  • The review and tweaking of the proposed town millage rate increase “to reflect the higher property values since 2020. Save Siesta Key Chair Tim Hensey has explained in recent months that the nonprofit board members agreed to double the millage rate proposed last year — from 0.25 mills to 0.50 mills — as another nod to concerns that Legislative Delegation members voiced during the first incorporation attempt. One mill represents $1,000 of property value.
  • “Meeting with local legislative members “to solidify a majority vote.
  • “Engaging professional political and policy consultants in Tallahassee to be sure our bill goes all the way through the House, Senate [and] then to the Governor.
  • “Hosting neighborhood ‘Third Thirsty Thursday gatherings’ for interested residents to learn more about Save Siesta Key and its efforts. Click here for the Third Thirsty Thursday schedule. The next event is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 17.”

The Save Siesta Key email blast also pointed out, “The politics that affect our community’s ability to be able to vote on incorporation is real.” It added, “As with any political effort — it costs a lot of money to successfully mount a professional campaign. That is why we need your help now.”

“Your contribution to our 2022 effort will help bring the subject of incorporating our island to an official vote in 2023,” the email continued. “This is the only way to preserve our way of life for generations to come. We must preserve this precious quality of life for ourselves and for visitors near and far,” the email said.

“[P]lease consider matching or exceeding our average donation of $250 this time around,” the email added.

“Click here to make a donation online,” it continued, or mail a check to Save Siesta Key, PO Box 35214, Sarasota, FL 34242.