Vote Beggs and Ramirez in the District 4 Sarasota County Commission primaries on Aug. 28

We endorse Wesley Beggs for the Democratic nomination

In previous editorials, we have extolled the virtues of the ideal candidate for public office: one with a good education, a wide-ranging knowledge of the salient issues of the day, an open and friendly countenance that invites interaction by prospective voters and, most important, an overriding desire to hold said public office for the benefit of his or her constituents, and not for personal gain. Our examination of Wesley Beggs shows us that she meets all of those criteria.

At the other end of the spectrum are those who should not run for office, or at least be elected: The cranks and gadflies, those with an axe to grind. And Mike Cosentino is such a candidate. He would not even be in the public consciousness if the County Commission had not abandoned a short stretch of Beach Road to the adjoining property owners in 2016. He took exception to that act, claiming it violated the county’s Comprehensive Plan, and he has, beyond all reason, created a virtual cottage industry of opposition, including seeking to place two Sarasota County Charter amendments on the ballot in November in an attempt to reverse that decision.

He remains blissfully oblivious to the fact that the commission’s actions did not violate the county’s Comprehensive Plan, because no part of the abandoned roadway was on the waterfront (it is bounded on both sides by parcels belonging to the property owners who benefited from the abandonment). Ironically, the County Commission did violate its Comprehensive Plan with another abandonment, which we criticized in an editorial in May 2013. In that case, the board gave away waterfront property at the terminus of Calle de Costa Rica on Siesta Key. That lot was three doors down from Mike Cosentino’s house, and yet that abandonment somehow did not stir him to public outrage.

He is Quixotically obsessed with the Beach Road abandonment, and on that basis he wants Sarasota County voters to place him in a position of considerable power. But to do so would be a grave error. He does not merit, nor deserve, serious consideration.

Alternatively, Wesley Beggs is a breath of fresh air in contrast to the fetid, developer-occluded miasma that enshrouds the County Commission. Were she to gain the approval of a majority of the voters, in August and again in November, she would replace Commissioner Al Maio.

Maio’s only distinction in his four years on the County Commission is his long-running struggle with Commissioner Mike Moran for the title of Most Slavishly Devoted Toady of the development community.

Instead of Maio’s knee-jerk approvals of whatever exploitative proposal his development overlords were proposing, Beggs would studiously weigh the needs of the county, the will of the people and her own good judgment to lead us to a better Sarasota County. She would seek to preserve those aspects of Sarasota County that make it a desirable place to live, work and play, while steadfastly seeking prudent and complementary opportunities for growth. 

We urge our readers to vote for Wesley Beggs for District 4 County Commissioner in the Democratic Primary on Aug. 28.

We endorse Lourdes Ramirez for the Republican nomination

Four years ago, we did not give our endorsement to Al Maio for the District 4 seat. We felt he would be too beholden to the developers in Sarasota County. We were not wrong. Over the last four years, there have been few development proposals that Commissioner Maio did not provide his full-throated support, including a proposal to build a construction debris recycling facility next to the internationally renowned Celery Fields avian refuge. (Maio counters that the Celery Fields originally was a stormwater drainage project, as if its serendipitous evolution into an ecotourism bonanza that draws thousands of tourists to our county is somehow an undesirable result.)

We also did not approve then of Maio’s noxious electoral practices, either personally or through his dark-money confederates. Every effort was made to discredit Candidate Ramirez, using tactics that can most charitably be described as character assassination. Predictably, the deep pockets of Maio’s dark-money benefactors and the cruel aspersions of a brutal mudslinging campaign gave Maio the “victory” (if a victory can be claimed by such dishonorable means).

Now, four years later, Lourdes Ramirez is once again challenging Maio for the District 4 Republican nomination. Once again the vile besmirchers are trying to turn voters against Ramirez. They do not refer to her years of public and community service. They do not refer to her desire to provide a balanced approach to growth in Sarasota County, respecting the sanctity of our fragile environment. Instead, they whisper darkly that she is a psychic; a tarot card reader.

Well, one does not need to be a psychic to know that Al Maio is an accessible county commissioner if you are a wealthy developer. If you are just a regular, hard-working taxpayer, Maio does not care about your opinion. And his record as county commissioner speaks pretty loudly to that reality. We strongly believe that voters made a mistake four years ago in the Republican primary and are now being given an opportunity to right that wrong.

We urge our readers to vote for Lourdes Ramirez for District 4 County Commissioner in the Republican Primary on Aug. 28.