Guest correspondence

The City of Sarasota is going through a process to change its seal and logo. Recently, six seal designs have returned to commission, all centered around the Ringling Bridge. This bridge has become a symbol of Sarasota. The choosing a seal exercise should serve as a reminder to the city board that change and progress are good.

In 2019, I wrote an SRQ Daily column about the history of our iconic bridge and how the city tried to prevent the bridge from being built, stating that its height was an eyesore before it was built. There were many lawsuits and citizens trying to prevent its construction, stating that Sarasota would be ruined by this bridge.

It’s amazing how far we’ve come, and our beautiful bridge is a symbol of our evolution. This change from the low drawbridge to the fixed span bridge we have today was necessary not only to accommodate traffic, but also to improve our overall quality of life, and it did so to such an extent that we place it now on the town seal. This bridge is an incredible legacy that will be there for generations.

On Monday, and in the weeks to come, the city will consider changes that will be important for future generations, making changes to welcome and encourage the construction of affordable housing. Make no mistake, this is a Ringling Bridge moment. It is a time when the city must embrace what it is today and meet the challenges it faces with solutions to improve the quality of life. It would be a mistake to ignore the lesson of our own history; Sarasota should seize the opportunity to dramatically improve affordable housing and all the benefits that come with it.

I’m sure we’ll hear some of the same arguments back when the Ringling Bridge was opposed, that it will ruin the city, that horrors will be created. Similar to arguments about the height of the bridge and the increase in the number of cars crossing it, we will hear about the height and density of buildings that can accommodate the growing number of people living here.

While I’m sure we’ll hear these things, I’m also sure that if we don’t do something, we’ll have a quality of life crisis that will make trivial the problem of putting today’s modern Ringling Bridge traffic on a two-lane drawbridge.

The Ringling Bridge was controversial but necessary for our future. A change that had to happen, despite resistance from those who wanted Sarasota to remain a two-way bridge city. It’s not a two-lane bridge town, and it’s not a sleepy town like it was 20 years ago when you could fire a cannon down Main Street at 5 p.m. and hit no one. It is a vibrant destination and city that needs affordable housing and a workforce to support the people who frequent its restaurants and arts. Increased density is a necessity to do this.

It’s time to move forward and change when it comes to housing for our future. The City Commission should support the recommended staffing changes to encourage and accommodate workforce housing, and it will be a positive legacy just like the Ringling Bridge.

Christine Robinson is Executive Director of the Argus Foundation.