John Lennon and Paul McCartney once wrote a song that started with the line, “I read the news today, oh boy.”
One might feel the same way when viewing the local headlines here on the Island, which are often dominated by rental regulations, property rights, Bert Harris claims, political disputes, traffic, parking, congestion, noise, red tide and a multitude of other problems and inconveniences that take some off the shine off this tropical jewel. Yet, Anna Maria Island remains a unique and wonderful place to live, work and play for those who still believe the rewards outweigh the challenges that are also part of the deal.
We have 17 residents (some retirees, some still working) who are willing to take on the challenges and headaches (some self-inflicted) of elected office, getting paid a pittance to try to solve complex problems that would constitute a much higher pay grade elsewhere. We also have dozens of volunteer board and committee members who get paid nothing to work on these same issues.
The Island is blessed with a politically engaged citizenry that doesn’t always agree and doesn’t always get it right, but is never shy about voicing an opinion, pushing for change or standing firm on a strong-held belief. Yes, the numbers are shrinking, but the full-time residents who remain form a close-knit, community that cannot be duplicated up the street in Bradenton or across the bay in Sarasota.
Although they undoubtedly contribute to our topical and tropical dilemmas, the hundreds of thousands of visitors who come to the Island each year also provide a significant income stream for our local businesses, and tax revenues for our local governments. They also add color to the ever-changing palette of Island life, sharing insights and experiences with us and hopefully getting the same in return.
There’s public beaches every two miles and public access points in between. There’s public fishing piers at both ends of the Island and recreational opportunities everywhere you look. We have a free trolley system, low-cost shuttle services, and water taxis and a ferry service are looming on the horizon.
This over-saturated Island still offers a cornucopia of locally owned restaurants, bars, businesses, art galleries and shopping destinations that are as far-reaching and fascinating as the folks who run them.
Is the Island perfect? Nope. But we get to chase our personal versions of paradise with good people at our side, the sun on our face and tropical breezes at our back, while our compatriots up north slog through another winter watching the Weather Channel and saying, “Man, I wished I lived somewhere warm.”
Boat drinks anyone?