Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Catch them while you can

There are two free art exhibitions in East Manatee that you should take a look at, while you can.

The Art Association of Palm-Aire is showcasing the work of nearly 50 artists everyday this week at the Palm-Aire Country Club, where the lobby has been turned into a gallery.

The exhibition runs through Sunday. I had the chance to see the work Tuesday and I was impressed by the quality and diversity. You'll see everything from paintings to needlepoint and sculpture.

Also,ComCenter is having a reception 9 a.m. -noon Saturday at 9040 Town Center Parkway, Lakewood Ranch. Free pastries and coffee will be served and the public is invited. The ComCenter exhibition, which includes work from artists affiliated with Art Center Sarasota, can also be seen Monday-Friday during regular business hours.

ComCenter represents a unique melding of the arts and business world.

Take a look,


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Festive event, deadly serious cause

Several of the cancer survivors who took part in Myakka City’s first Relay for Life last year won’t be back this year. They have passed away as a result of the disease.

“It’s an excellent statement on why we need to support this event and to have this community come out. We are a small, close-knit community and it hits home anytime one of these people passes away,” said Danny Cacchiotti, chairman of the survivors committee.

Myakka City will rally for 18 hours starting at 6 p.m. Friday for the Relay for Life as a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. The event, which continues until noon Saturday, will be held at Myakka City Community Park on Wauchula Road.

Take a look at the faces of some of the survivors who plan to take part in this year's Relay.

For more, see Friday's Herald.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Drivers, remember May 22, 2010

Road widening projects never end.

Actually, they do, but it just seems they go on forever.

Remember State Road 70 between Tara and Lakewood Ranch? The earth rumbled, and cars dodged those orange-and-white barrels for years. The ordeal seemed never-ending.

Go north a few miles to State Road 64, between Lena Road and Lakewood Ranch Boulevard.
There, crews have been working since November 2007 to widen less than two miles of highway.

We hear that S.R. 64 should be completed by May 22.

For more, see Thursday's Bradenton Herald.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Walls are done, but not the litigation

You might think that with the hockey arena at Lakewood Ranch being torn down and the walls being turned into road base material, it would be the end of story.

But no, there is still more litigation to go.

Sal Diaz-Verson, the developer of the arena, who announced his plans with such fanfare in 2003, still owes millions to the main contractor.

For more, see Wednesday's Herald.


Friday, March 5, 2010

Still contentious, after all these years

Outside the former presidential palace in Saigon, since renamed Ho Chi Minh City, two tanks from the Vietnam War are parked. One was made in China and the other in the old Soviet Union.

During a recent visit to Vietnam, someone asked me to stand in front of one of those tanks for a photograph.

I refused.

I can't explain why other than it has something to do with my own experiences, loyalty to my country, and what those tanks represent.

Decades have passed since the end of that war, and yet it continues to conflict may of us. For more, see my column in Sunday's Herald.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Hometown Democracy debate moves to Ranch

Between now and November, Floridians will hear a lot about the Hometown Democracy ballot issue.

Amendment Four, the Florida Hometown Democracy Land Use Initiative, proposes to require voter approval of all changes to their community’s comprehensive plans.

The debate comes to Lakewood Ranch next week with two events.

The Lakewood Ranch Democratic Club hosts a couple of Republicans for a discussion 7 p.m., Tuesday, March 9, at the Lakewood Ranch Town Hall, 8175 Lakewood Ranch Blvd.

On one side will be Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash and on the other will be Sarasota County Republican Commissioner Jon Thaxton.

The meeting is open to the public.

On Wednesday, March 10, the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance March Luncheon will have a discussion on Amendment 4 titled "What It Means to Businesses and Our Community."

Scheduled speakers include Ryan Houck, executive director, Floridians for Smarter Growth; Jon Thaxton, Sarasota County Commissioner; and Ward Friszolowski, former Mayor of St. Pete Beach.

The Alliance discussion will be at the Fete Ballroom at the Polo Grill in the Lakewood Ranch Main Street Complex, 10670 Boardwalk Loop.

Business networking will be from 11:30 a.m. until noon, followed by the luncheon and program.

Space is limited and advance registration and payment are required. Register online at

Cost LWRBA members - $20 per person.
Future-members and guests - $30 per person.
For more information, contact Robin Parsons, Business Development Director, Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance, at (941) 757-1664 or


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The tunnels of Cu Chi

After three weeks in Vietnam, my wife Kim and I have returned to Manatee County with a bunch of new memories and experiences.

One of the most unforgettable was going underground to explore the tunnels at Cu Chi.

The famous complex of tunnels was constructed by Vietnamese communist forces in the jungles near Saigon during the war.

During my service in Vietnam, I never got any closer to Cu Chi than Long Binh, the huge U.S. Army base north of Saigon.

What's it like going through the tunnels today? Even though the tunnels have been expanded to allow tourists to descend through them, they are claustrophic. You have to crouch to get through the dimly lit, narrow passages.

I went into every tunnel I was allowed to enter save one, where the entrance appeared about the size of a cracker box. But there is a whole network of deeper tunnels that we didn't get to see, not that I wanted to.

At the end of the tour, there are displays of what I called "animatronic Vietcong" and souvenir shops.

What the displays don't show is a balanced picture of the fight around the tunnels.
One of the most storied examples of American heroism during the war was the tunnel rats who went into the underground system armed with little more than a .45 pistol to look for insurgents.

Faced with a dangerous enemy, booby traps, and claustrophic conditions, the bravery shown by the tunnel rats was amazing.