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In a rare community forum that brought County Commissioner Carolyn Mason together with City Commissioner Willie Charles Shaw, Harvest Tabernacle was abuzz with citizens looking for answers.
The lingering question here is were those questions answered? That answer would depend on who you asked.
Typically, a community forum would allow for a “state of the community” message from the lead orator with a collection of various reports from officials. By the time it was all said and done you should not only know and understand where things are but where things are going. Considering that this forum should’ve allowed disclosures from the city and county commissioners, there was a lot of ground that could have been covered.
Unfortunately, the focus wasn’t on addressing incoming questions and concerns. The theme of the forum was based on Public Education and Community Safety, both valid topics on their own. A panel was assembled that consisted of individuals who are all well-respected and knowledgeable and offered greater insight and understanding to the challenges at hand.
This change in the process shot holes in the expectations of the attendees who arrived with questions in mind and in hand that focused on issues that this panel was not assembled to address. With that in mind, the level of energy and enthusiasm that was present only served to exemplify the fact that the residents of North Sarasota are prepared to engage in dialogues with the city and county in order to effect positive change.
Commissioner Shaw served as moderated and at times would interject his own very unique brand of humor to lighten the mood when the topics began heating up. Those familiar with his management style recognized this while, those who may not have been prepared for his candid conversation may have taken reason to pause. Commissioner Mason held a decidedly different position which allowed for citizen input to be addressed by the panel and progressed forward until resolution.
The intention here was to gain a higher degree of understanding and a deeper sense of community. One of the more influential issues was a sense of disconnect between the various factions of the community with everyone seeming to operate their own agendas towards the common issues. Our greatest strength will always come from the combined efforts of everyone involved working together.
With more community forums scheduled, hopefully this meeting will open the doors for dialogue and open minds to be pro-active vs. reactive. If we all act for the greater good of the community as a whole then there may yet still be hope for all areas of Sarasota moving forward.
A sincere word of thanks goes out to Pastor Jim Minor of Harvest Tabernacle and his staff for allowing the sanctuary to host this gathering.