Thoughts on arts poll, ballfields, youth, fines

Well, well, well. Bradenton continues a welcome trend of upward movement in AmericanStyle Magazine's online poll ranking the country's top arts destinations. Next year will present a major challenge since the Friendly City earned the No. 2 spot on the new chart of the best small cities -- second to Sarasota.

This is shaping up to be a competition between the two arts communities to see who can muster the most online votes from loyalists.

Bradenton zipped up the charts from a No. 22 place in 2010 to No. 10 last year.

The past year has seen improvements in Village of the Arts (now with an iconic sculpture heralding one entrance); renewed construction on the new Manatee Players Performing Arts Center (thanks again, Kiwanis Club of Bradenton); and the launch of the Riverwalk project (with a fall completion date).

Yes, indeed, things are happening here, earning Bradenton a higher ranking.

A litany of questions

n Why can't the City of Palmetto find a solution to the years-long dilemma of youth baseball fields? Why delay after delay after delay?

The North River American Little League organization graciously agreed to give up the old fields so a new elementary school could be built, with promises of new fields.

With a fresh delay over contaminated soil at Blackstone Park, which Manatee County offered to the city as a site for the ballfields, will this issue get shelved again? Will there be finger-pointing instead of action?

So what's next, Palmetto?

n The Manatee County school district graduated yet another class of Amer-I-Can students with football legend and Amer-I-Can founder Jim Brown attending the ceremony again. This highly successful program turns youths away from poor behavior, builds self-esteem and thereby stronger people achieving academic success.

Manatee has proven to be a case study that Amer-I-Can works ever since adopting the program in the 2007-2008 school year.

Why hasn't the Sarasota County school district jumped on this bandwagon yet?

n Manatee County commissioners approved fines for operators of "pill mills" who violate the new ordinance on pain management clinics. Those code enforcement fines are stiffer than the usual $100 for a first offense and $250 for each subsequent violation. The "pill mill" fines are $200 and $450, respectively.

How are those amounts going to dissuade unscrupulous drug peddlers from making big money?

True, the new ordinance offers much to commend in the war against prescription drug abuse and bogus pain clinics, arming the county with stronger weapons.

But doesn't a $200 citation look like a light spanking?

Quote of the week

"I won't react to that test (FCAT). It's not fair to chase a test that you can't measure the validity of. That's not fair to our kids, our teachers or our parents." -- Bob Gagnon, Manatee's assistant superintendent for curriculum.