Wednesday, August 26, 2009

North River helps keep kids safe

Michael Williamson, Battalion Chief of the North River Fire District, provided this photo as his department and Manatee County EMS teamed together to create awareness to motorists that school was back in session.

Picture, left to right, are Paramedic Amy Kemp, firefighter Logan Wells, Paramedic/Firefighter Sara Wells, and Captain Russ Emmons.

He offered special thanks to Gold Coast Distributors for the posters and to Fire Inspectors Leslie Adent and Diane Chrzanowski.


Emergency flasher gets attention

The traffic signal warning drivers to slow to 20 mph for a school crossing on State Road 70 and River Club Boulevard is getting some attention this morning. The flasher, which had been out since the start of school, is located on the north side of S.R. 70 facing west-bound traffic.

A maintenance crew was on the site to return it to service.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Cedar Hammock

Firefighters from Cedar Hammock Fire Rescue were on the job today, seeking to persuade drivers to watch for school children, especially at school crossing zones.
Photo courtesy of Diane Chrzanowski, Fire Safety Inspector and Life Safety Educator for
Cedar Hammock Fire Rescue

More school crossing safety

It's the first week of school and fire departments across the county have had trucks with banners and crews urging drivers to slow down. Here is a unit from the Myakka City Fire Department.
Dawn Graf, an office assistant at the fire department, said, "Hopefully they will make people think and be a little more careful!"
Myakka has positioned units along State Road 70 and Verna Bethany Road and on Wauchula Road, next to Myakka Elementary School.

Slow down out there

With one anemic school crossing light lazily flashing and the other not working at all, State Road 70 East at River Club Boulevard is a dangerous way for children to get to school.

To help get the school year off to a safe start, East Manatee Fire Rescue has parked a fire truck with its emergency lights flashing in the median of the six-lane highway, just west of the crossing zone. Parked just east of the crossing zone is an EMS ambulance, with a sign asking motorists to slow down and its emergency lights flashing.

The extra precautions were working this morning with most motorists slowing way down and allowing children headed to Braden River Elementary and Braden River Middle to get to class safely.

Much appreciated. Thanks for the extra attention folks.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mustang Mania

Even though the first day of school in Manatee County isn't until Monday, Aug. 24, members of the Lakewood Ranch band and their supporters are already making ambitious plans.

In response to the severe recession, they are organizing the first Mustang Mania Festival, which could become an annual event.

The Lakewood Ranch Band Association is inviting performing groups to showcase their talents on the school stage Oct. 17 -18.

There will also be vendors to showcase their edible delights, products and services at the outdoor venue.

Also planned: carnival rides, food, and arts and crafts.

The association hopes to raise money for the Lakewood Ranch music program and other school related programs.

Anyone interested in participating is invited to contact the association at


Monday, August 17, 2009

What's so funny about peace, love and understanding?

As a life-long non-hippie, revisiting Woodstock through the memories of several who were there was an enlightening assignment for me (see Saturday's story on the 40th anniversary of that historic festival).

I most enjoyed hearing their recollections about the legendary bands and performers who took the stage back then.

But I was also fascinated by the adventures they shared about just getting there. It was a time when bus fare from Michigan to New York was $25 -- a lot of money to some back then.

Several of those I interviewed were curious about my past, and to learn that at the time I was serving in Vietnam with the U.S. Army. It was a time when those in short-hair almost stood out more than those with long hair.

Regardless of what side of the cultural divide you might have been on back then, most would have agreed that they would like to see more peace, love and understanding. Still do.

And the music lifted the spirits of a generation, whether they were in Haight-Asbury, Bradenton, or Long Binh.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Proud of these kids

Big inspiration can come in small packages.

Anna Higginbotham, 12, came up with the idea of collecting school backpacks for disadvantaged youth. She was close to being a one-girl band last year .

This year, the newly formed youth group at Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Church pitched in and Wednesday night announced they had gathered 530 of the backpacks.

Emily Mingote, who got a taste of community service at Braden River Middle School with the Empty Bowls project for the hungry, confirmed an old suspicion: it's better to give than receive.

"It gives you a good feeling," she said.

For more, see Thursday's Herald.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Nurses thank Mike Bennett

The Florida Nurse Practitioner Coalition has named state Sen. Michael Bennett, R-Bradenton, "Legislator of the Year" for his support of Florida nurse practitioners and their patients.

During the 2009 legislative session, Bennett sponsored a bill, Senate Bill 426, that would allow nurse practitioners to prescribe controlled substances.

Florida is one of only two states where nurse practitioners cannot prescribe controlled substances, according to Cindy Drew, president of the Sarasota Council of Advanced Practice Nurses.

“This is well within the typical scope of practice in all states except Florida and Alabama,” she said.

Even a Florida Senate report in 2009 recommended that nurse practitioners be given the ability to prescribe controlled substances, she said.

“As a geriatric nurse practitioner, I treat patients with chronic debilitating diseases and patients at the end of life who require controlled substances for pain relief,” said Drew. “I hope that patients will very soon no longer have to wait for necessary treatment.”


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Lou Gehrig Night

Last September, the Department of Veterans Affairs ruled that any service member or veteran diagnosed with ALS will be entitled to service connection and full benefits. The ruling is based on the fact that men and women who served in the military have a higher incidence of the paralyzing and fatal disease.

I immediately shared that information with my sisters, considering that our dad, an Army veteran of World War II, had died from the disease in 1987. Good news this VA ruling, I thought, but a little too late for my father.

However, this past weekend, I heard from my sister, Kathy, that the VA had awarded my stepmother a pension, based on my father's death, 22 years ago. Kathy asked me to share that with other families who may have been or are dealing with ALS.

For more about the ruling, refer to this press release:

Coincidentally, at 7 p.m. Thursday, August 6, the Sarasota Reds and the ALS Association Florida Chapter present Lou Gehrig Night at Ed Smith Stadium. Tickets to the game and all concession items are just $1. Raffle tickets will be sold to win signed Major League Baseball memorabilia; proceeds from the raffle will support the ALS Association Florida Chapter.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Red light camera objections

Little did I know when I wrote a column a few weeks ago on red light cameras how many emails I would receive from folks expressing reservations.

In many of the emails, the writer claims to actually support cameras to stop red light runners, but has some concerns: Do I get a ticket if I'm almost through the intersection and the light turns red?

Also, aren't the cameras just a revenue generator for local government? And do they apply equally to those who blatantly roar straight through an intersection and those who make a right turn on red, but never quite come to a complete halt?

There's also concern that red light cameras make for more rear-end collisions. Folks will try so hard to stop that they will get crunched from behind.

Here are a couple of thoughts in response:

Drivers making a right turn on red are required to come to a complete halt, look, and then proceed. That's the law. But so often, drivers do a roll-through on right-hand turns on red. There are also more than a few that barely slow down for the red as they make that right-hand turn.

As to the risk of creating more rear-end collisions because people slow down and prepare to stop on red? It's pretty self-evident, isn't it, that too many folks are following too closely? We need to stay a safe interval behind the car ahead of us.

One of the emailers asked why couldn't cops just do their job and ticket bad drivers? Good point. The police often say it's because they don't have enough resources, not enough money or officers on the road. The result is inconsistent law enforcement that leads some drivers to think they can speed with impunity or ignore those traffic signals.

Can all the bad behavior be unlearned? Good question.