AMI bicycling program a winner
Government studies are worthless unless implemented. Why spend taxpayer money on a paper product doomed to sit in a file cabinet?
Transportation alternatives have been talked to death here. There’s a “Complete Streets” section in the county’s Public Works Highway and Traffic Standards manual. It’s years old.
The plan’s goals as stated on the county website are: “Complete Streets are roadways designed to enable safe access for all users: motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transportation users of all ages and abilities.” And there’s this: “The policy may call for retrofitting, meaning that existing roadways must undergo renovations to become complete streets ...”
Anyone feel safe riding a bicycle down Manatee Avenue West, Cortez Road, Tamiami Trail? Who would?
The residents of Anna Maria Island have added another transportation option to their list: a bicycle program. Smart islanders launched an initiative called Ride Share AMI in February that organizers designed to lessen the island’s years-long parking and transportation dilemma. The eco-friendly bike program, with four bicycle rental hubs around the island, makes it easier to ride somewhere on the seven-mile barrier island.
This initiative, coming from The Center of Anna Maria Island, a nonprofit and Adventure Away, helps serve a transportation alternative not only recognized on the island but across the region. The county’s free trolley up and down the island (Manatee County government does deserve credit for that), private water taxis, even golf cart rentals help the traffic-mitigating effort. In another cool contribution to ease congestion, Island Monkeys provides free transportation (just for a tip) to anywhere on the island.
Cheers to the primary sponsors of the island effort. Cycling is safer there than in Bradenton.
County commission abandons achiever
Jeers to the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners for basically firing Administrator Ed Hunzeker after his now decade-long leadership in guiding the government through the Great Recession and other great challenges. The 4-3 commission vote reflects the deep division about his performance. Hunzeker expressed a willingness to stay on after his current contract ends in January 2018, but the majority on the board rejected that offer.
So now the board will embark on a national search for a successor with no mention of promoting from within the current administration during this week’s commission meeting. If an outsider is indeed hired, that person will lack the deep institutional knowledge that Hunzeker holds. As the county contends with a pending budget deficit, an indigent health care crisis and the potential for staff layoffs, that familiarity will be greatly missed.
Hunzeker may not have endeared himself to powerful developers and other influential voices, but he deserves credit for his steady government leadership, command that earned the respect of his chief lieutenants in county administration — demonstrated by the fact that many attended the meeting for the commission’s vote. Plus, past county commissioners and business leaders lauded Hunzeker’s performance before the final vote.
Were the majority of commissioners dissatisfied with their inability to micro-manage the county administration when that is not their responsibility, according to state law? That’s been a problem in the past. Hunzeker’s eventual successor should be wary of that possibility.
Hunzeker enjoys leading county government, he has told this Editorial Board on several occasions. He forfeited a bundle of money — some $337,000 — from the state retirement program in 2013 to remain on the job, though the commission did increase his salary to $203,000 annually.
The county’s website gives kudos to his leadership, stating: “Manatee Board of County Commissioners hired Hunzeker as county administrator for his solid background in finance and his strong vision for the future of Manatee County. His intuition, approachability and intelligence make him a natural leader.”
This week’s vote of no confidence tells a different tale. Here’s hoping the next administrator can fill some pretty big shoes.
Quote of the Week
“I just booked my last room for now up until after January 1 about an hour ago. I don’t have a room available,” Julie Hess, property manager at the Anna Marie Island Dream Inn, told the Herald around 4:30 p.m. Monday. “We’re doing really good right now. We were full last week and the week before.”
Cheers to the county’s tourism industry.