BY MARCY SHORTUSE - When a poll was found in some Boca Grande residents’ mailboxes last week, it stirred up many questions. Who is it from? What will be done with the information? With a return address from Susan Schuler and Associates in Brandon, and questions that range from generic to specifically regarding Gilchrist Avenue parking listed on the poll, it was no wonder there were questions.
Speculate no more, the group that instituted the poll has spoken.
The organization GIFT stands for Guarantee the Island’s Future Today. John Heagney and, more specifically, John Heagney Public Relations represent the GIFT group. Heagney’s firm, in turn, asked Schuler to conduct the poll.
Heagney would not name any members of the GIFT group, calling it “very embryonic” at this time. He said it was a group formed within the last 60 days, and that it is still growing in numbers.
“We’re not really at liberty to give out the numbers of people involved,” he said. “All of them are homeowners on the island. Everyone will be identified in the future, though.”
Heagney said during the last couple of years there’s been a lot of speculation and a lot of guessing at what the tone of the island is regarding Gilchrist parking.
“We want to actually find out what the island residents and homeowners feel about the use of public lands, parking on the island, preservation, how they feel about living there, and why they are attracted to living here on the island,” he said. “We feel this is a far-reaching poll designed to gauge the pulse of people living on the island. This is an effort to stop the conjecture. We’re trying to find out the good, the bad and the ugly. This is not a scam, not a conspiracy to invade people’s privacy. We’re just trying to formalize opinions.”
As far as to how the information contained in the poll will be used, Heagney said, “We’re not exactly sure what we’ll do with it, until we see what the results are.”
Heagney, who has friends that reside on the island, said that his firm is open to all results, and that he feels the questions listed in the poll are “well-constructed to elicit completely objective answers, and weren’t skewed one way or another.”
“Our primary focus is on the poll itself,” he said. “It was created basically to get a more scientific look at how people feel. The poll may show that 95 percent of everyone may favor people parking wherever they want. We just want the truth, an accurate assessment of how the people who live on the island feel. If it shows that the overwhelming majority are opposed to any restriction on parking, that’s one thing.”
However, some people who have received the poll at their PO box are confused. One man’s young son received the poll addressed to him, but the father, the listed property holder, did not. In another PO box the poll was addressed to a woman’s husband, who is not even listed on the PO box.
In this office (the Boca Beacon/Gasparilla Gazette), two people received the poll. Neither are property owners. The one person in the office who is a property owner did not receive a poll.
According to all of the businesses asked as to whether they received the poll, they said they did not.
Schuler said in an earlier interview with the Beacon that it was sent to all post office box holders. Heagney said it was sent to 1,329 post office boxes. They also have approximately 700 phone number to go along with those addresses, he said, and follow up calls will be made if no one from the household sends the poll back.
“There’s no oddity to this at all,” he said. “Polling is taking a sample of the island. We didn’t send surveys out to 100 percent of all owners. No poll does. This is a random sampling of island owners. That’s what polls do; they take representative samples.”
In a conversation last week Schuler said that she didn’t know who her ultimate client was, but did say that it was a public relations firm that was representing another Boca Grande individual who requested the survey be done.
As to when the cut-off date is for sending the polls in, Heagney said they are at the mercy of the United States Postal Service.
Susan Schuler and Associates has been in business for more than 11 years, with Schuler having 30 years of experience.
John Heagney Public Relations has for more than 30 years provided media relations and publicity for clients. Specific services include, but are not limited to, news coverage, writing services, web design, internal communications, social media and audiovisual production.
A STATEMENT FROM GIFT ...
Early this summer, our firm was contacted by a Boca Grande resident to conduct a poll to ascertain the opinions of local residents about the use of the Gilchrist Parkway. Although the future will be decided by the county DOT, law department and primarily our county commissioners, the client believes that all residents should weigh in on the issue.Various commercial and not-for-profit organizations have maintained that they know what is best for all islanders; however, until a scientific survey is completed, there is no data showing how all stakeholders feel.The survey also is an attempt to broaden the scope of discussion to include islanders' views on preservation, private use of green space and a host of other issues. Neither our client nor our firm has any control over who was included by the pollster as part of the survey.Unlike some who would like to silence diverse opinion, we encourage all residents selected as part of the poll to answer questions that interest them so that their opinions will be recorded.We appreciate your interest in this important issue.
- John Heagney John Heagney Public Relations Representing GIFT
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