Bubil: Who's to blame for the traffic?


As April 1 approaches, today Harold comes very close to breaking his lifelong personal ban on April Fool’s Day columns.

Normally, I try not to get too upset about springtime traffic, because I keep in mind that the snowbirds clogging our roads have a lot of money falling out of their pockets.

But this spring does not seem to be normal. No matter where I go, there’s a traffic jam. It’s enough to make me propose a second bridge to Longboat Key.

The problem is not going away, so the best way to deal with it is to blame someone else.

I have a few people in mind:
• William Whitaker. Sarasota’s first snowbird. Back in the 1840s, he dreamed of the day when horse-drawn wagons would line the dirt path in front of his homestead, waiting to turn left.
• John Hamilton Gillespie. One of our first foreign investors. In the 1880s, he built a hotel and otherwise tried to make good on the bill of goods his father sold to 60 Scottish families who came here looking for “paradise.” Gillespie also built our first golf course, and never had to wait to get a tee time.
• Bertha Palmer. Our first really rich snowbird. She brought a lot of rich friends from Chicago. Bertha took one look at Sarasota Bay and proclaimed it was “as lovely as the Bay of Naples.” Sarasota’s tradition of real estate hyperbole was born. The Bay of Naples has a view of Mount Vesuvius. Sarasota Bay has a view of the Yellow Bluffs.
• Owen Burns. Another Chicagoan, he invented the phrase, “I love it! Let’s change it!!” He did things he never could get permits for today, such as dredging and filling and building seawalls.
• John and Charles Ringling. Down here, the circus kings dabbled in real estate. John hired Owen Burns and his dredge, the Sand Pecker, to create waterfront property in the 1920s.
• Ken Thompson. City manager who shook Sarasota out of its “sleepy fishing village” persona. Under him, Van Wezel Hall, known for great acoustics and horrid traffic jams, was built.
• Ruth Richmond, Arthur Vining Davis and Rolland King. Prominent builders and developers during the postwar boom.
• Chick Austin, John D. MacDonald, Paul Wolfe, David Cohen, Syd Solomon, the Van Wezels, Paul Rudolph, Victor deRenzi and the countless other arts leaders who made Sarasota into Florida’s cultural capital.
• Virginia Haley. Director of Visit Sarasota, she does her job entirely too well.
• Mary Fran Carroll, Rex Jensen and Roger Postlethwaite. Carroll, who died last week, and the others built Lakewood Ranch. Without them, the largest housing development in the area would not exist and University Parkway would be a race track instead of a parking lot.
• Dr. Steven Leatherman. “Dr. Beach” put our traffic over the top with his 2011 proclamation that Siesta Beach was the No. 1 beach in America. Why not? He doesn’t have to find a parking space there on a Saturday.

These people have one thing in common. They built a great city that others want to visit.NOTEStartOh, I left out someone else to blame for all that traffic.

You. And me. The only way to beat the traffic is for us to stop driving in it.


Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: March 29, 2014
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