- South Carolina
SURE’s mission is to unite people of faith in Sarasota County so that they can powerfully hold systems accountable in the community to a Godly standard of justice. For ten years, SURE has been a definitive ministry in Sarasota, crossing lines of faith, denomination, age, race, geography, and income. Members of SURE congregations work hard to build relationships in their congregations and their communities, discuss their concerns for the city and county, research solutions to serious problems they select, present them to the proper officials and work with them to make “sure”; those officials remain accountable.
In ten years SURE has conducted seven public actions to win justice in Sarasota:
The 1st Public Action gained support from the City Police Department to work more closely with citizens in reducing neighborhood crime with the “Hot Spot” program to anonymously report crime. The Sarasota County Area Transit working with SURE started a transportation program for 2nd and 3rd shift workers and students. Over 600 people were in attendance.
At the 2nd Public Action, the Sarasota County Commissioners agreed to develop a plan to eliminate/reduce impact fees for low-and very-low income new homebuyers. Currently mitigation of fees is being considered for the Enterprise Zone. The General Manager of County Parks and Recreation agreed to develop a strong proactive program for 14-18 years olds with oversight by his office. Over 500 people were in attendance.
At the 3rd Action, the Sarasota Sheriff’s Department and City of Sarasota agreed to increase minority hiring over the next three years to the point that the employees are representative of the population served, and to develop a comprehensive plan to make substance abuse programs available for inmates of the jail. The School District agreed to apply for funding using a curriculum, Direct Instruction, which has been proven to improve the reading performance of low-income and at-risk children. Three of the 4 eligible schools applied and received funding to implement this curriculum.
At the Action in 2003, the chief of the Sarasota Police Department committed to continue to provide a viable Community Resource Team in the Newtown area, continue diversity training for members of the Department, and to develop and implement comprehensive community-based youth programs.
In May 2004, a Community Action was held with over 100 neighborhood and church leaders in attendance. The decision-makers – the Sarasota County Sheriff, the City of Sarasota Chief of Police, and the Executive Director of the Sarasota Housing Authority – committed to establish a Regional Taskforce to coordinate crime-reduction activities with neighborhood and church leaders in the north County area.
The 6th Public Action was held on February 28, 2005 at 1st United Methodist Church with about 400 congregation and community leaders in attendance to get commitments on Affordable Housing and Education Reform from decision makers. Candidates for City Commission At-Large seats generally agreed to seek changes in CRA to plan and fund housing needs. Incumbent Commissioners and County Commissioners will are expected to make similar commitments as we continue to work on this issue during the year. The Superintendent of Schools committed to provide staff and curriculum for a training program for parents of pre-school children in a unique partnership with SURE and to continue to work with SURE in partnership to reduce the achievement gap.
A 7th Public Action was held in April 2006 at St. Martha’s Catholic Church in which commitments were secured to protect and expand downtown and Newtown’s stock of affordable housing through the expansion of the Community Redevelopment Area serviced by Tax Increment Financing and also the reduction or deferral of impact fees when constructing new affordable housing.