Thursday, January 3, 2019

Local News in Review - December 2018

In December, Collier County began planning to implement the one percent sales surtax voters approved in November, both the County Commission and Naples City Council weighed in on the community’s challenge to NCH’s new admissions policy, and the Collier School District’s high school graduation rate rose to 92 percent, ranking it eighth in the state. For these and other top stories in December about our elected local officials and governing bodies, read on! 

Following the news summaries are links to information about upcoming meetings of our elected boards and how you can register for a presentation titled What Does the Clerk Do for You? by Clerk of Courts Crystal Kinzel.

Board of County Commissioners (colliercountyfl.gov)

Next election: August 2020 Primary
On the ballot/incumbent: District 1/Donna Fiala, 3/Burt Saunders, 5/Bill McDaniel
Find your commissioner HERE

Growth, development, redevelopment
  • Golden Gate Estates could get a bus barn, or more shopping. Commissioners voted 4-1 to continue exploring a land swap with the Collier school system. Commissioner McDanial dissented, citing the possibility of selling the parcel to provide something better for residents. Naples Daily News, 12/13/18
  • Collier County will continue its multi-agency approach to economic development — for now. After hearing a report on current programs, how they operate and the return on investment, commissioners decided to stay the course, but indicated they could revisit funding for some programs during the next budget cycle. GNCC Advocacy Watch, 12/15/18
  • Editorial: Planning for future made strides in 2018. A review of significant long-term planning highlights of 2018. Naples Daily News, 12/25/18
  • County adopts policy to constrain Orange Blossom Drive. The stretch of neighborhood road from west of Airport Road to Goodlette Frank Road will remain two lanes and will not be widened. Commissioner Andy Solis, District 2 Newsletter, 12/31/18
  • County will take steps to clear gateway to Vanderbilt Lagoon. Commissioners agreed to front funds to start dredging Water Turkey Bay Channel and form MSTU to fund repayment and future routine channel maintenance. Commissioner Andy Solis, District 2 Newsletter, 12/31/18

Housing
  • U.S. home affordability drops to more than 10-year low in Q4 2018. A family needs annual income of $97,021 (57 percent of median Collier wages) to afford a median-priced home in Collier County, making it among the least affordable places in the country to buy. ATTOM Data Solutions via Naples Daily News editorial, 12/23/18
  • Related: Collier Community Assessment Issue Paper on Housing, Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation, 9/18, here
  • Editorial: Kudos and kicks in addressing the burden of housing costs. As 2018 ends, there’s still a chronic need to deliver housing that’s affordable to the workforce, including teachers, first responders and professionals starting their careers, as well as seniors who can’t afford pricey assisted living. Naples Daily News, 12/28/18

Sales tax surcharge
  • Report suggests Collier sales tax could sunset ahead of schedule. Current estimates show the tax will bring in more than $81.5 million in its first nine months, up from initial estimates of $70 million a year. Naples Daily News, 12/11/18
  • Dozens of applicants vie for seat on Collier sales tax oversight committee. They include lawyers, teachers and former Fortune 500 executives. Naples Daily News, 12/15/18
  • Related: Who is applying to sit on Collier's sales tax citizen oversight committee? Naples Daily News, 12/15/18
  • David Lawrence Center lawsuit scheduled for initial court action in January. At issue is a 5-acre parcel of land for a proposed $26 million mental health complex to be paid for with some of the proceeds of the one percent sales surtax. Naples Daily News, 12/22/18
  • Collier County tax increase to go into effect in 2019. Collier County residents and visitors will see the impacts nearly everywhere, including retail stores and restaurants. Groceries, medicines, and gas are all exempt. NBC2 News, 12/26/18
  • Deputy County Manager Casalinguida briefs BCC on sales tax rollout. Sales tax revenues and expenditures will be tracked, monitored by a citizen oversight committee. and regularly reported on to the Commission. Commissioner Andy Solis, District 2 Newsletter, 12/31/18

The environment
  • Commentary: Let’s be honest about plan to protect eastern Collier County. We recognize the Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) is not perfect, but it is the only viable plan that delivers protection for over 100,000 acres of well-connected panther habitat and wetlands in private ownership. By Mimi Wolok - Audubon of the Western Everglades, Meredith Budd - Florida Wildlife Federation, and Brad Cornell - Audubon Florida, via Naples Daily News, 12/2/18
  • Commentary: 2019 outlook on our water, land, wildlife and future. We and Collier voters have the opportunity to influence anti-fracking legislation at the state level and plans for the development of eastern Collier County at the local level. By Rob Moher, President and CEO, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, via Naples Daily News, 12/22/18
  • Editorial: Steps forward, backward in environmental protection. A review of positive actions taken in 2018 and concerns for 2019. Worth the read. Naples Daily News, 12/26/18
Other
  • BCC to send letter to NCH about hospital admissions. Commissioner Taylor said the admissions policy change is creating chaos in the community, and Chairman Solis said it didn’t sit well that NCH did not send a representative to the meeting. Naples Daily News, 12/11/18
  • Medical marijuana dispensaries rejected again in Collier. For the second time in the past two months, Commissioners voted down a proposal allowing medicinal marijuana dispensaries in the county. Approval would have required a supermajority vote, and Commissioners Donna Fiala and Penny Taylor voted against the measure. FOX4, 12/12/18
  • BCC creates new mental illness and addiction advisory committee. Its purpose is to help ensure all possible services, treatment, and public and private assistance are provided for county residents struggling with mental illness and/or substance abuse disorders. Press Release, Collier County government, 12/13/18
  • Editorial: On right road to better hurricane preparation. While there were notable accomplishments in 2018, progress is needed in the areas of gasoline availability, generators in nursing homes, and timeliness of federal reimbursement. Naples Daily News, 12/23/18
  • Fuel pump security ordinance requiring safeguards against gas pump skimmers takes effect Jan. 1 Commissioner Burt Saunders proposed the ordinance in response to a growing problem in southwest Florida. Naples Daily News, 12/25/18
  • Search for gravesite spurs 6-year cleanup of county-owned cemetery in Immokalee. After years of efforts by VFW volunteers, the graves of 94 veterans were identified and marked. Naples Daily News, 12/25/18


Naples City Council (naplesgov.com)

Next elections: February 2020
On the ballot/incumbents: Mayor/Bill Barnett; 3 Councilors/Reg Buxton, Michelle McLeod, Ellen Seigel

  • First portion of Baker Park set to open in March. The project, which began with City Council’s approval of the land purchase in 2013, will ultimately cost more than $23 million and be the most expensive public project in Naples history. Naples Daily News, 12/3/18
  • Naples Council to send letter to NCH about hospital admissions. At urging of residents, they will ask NCH leaders to delay the admissions change to allow physicians and the community to weigh in. Naples Daily News, 12/5/18
  • Naples City Council rejects ordinance that would have created ethics commission. The vote was 4-3, with council members Michelle McLeod, Terry Hutchison, Linda Penniman and Gary Price dissenting. Naples Daily News, 12/5/18
  • Naples Council wants to prevent electric, dockless scooters from coming to town. It plans to solidify state law into local law and grandfather it in case state law changes, which might happen if the scooter companies decide to lobby the state Legislature. Naples Daily News, 12/5/18
  • Design Review Board approves $35 million upgrade and expansion of NHC emergency room. The second-floor addition exceeds the height limit in the current medical district and will go to City Council for a final decision. Naples Daily News, 12/7/18
  • Old Naples redevelopment project stalls, drawing complaints. The mixed-use residential and retail project next to the Cove Inn has been untouched since late October when the city's building department issued a stop-work order for improper demolition at the site. Naples Daily News, 12/21/18
  • Naples City Council approves removal of stormwater beach pipes. Portions of Gulf Shore Boulevard will have to be torn up, which could allow for other improvements. Naples Daily News, 12/17/18

Marco Island City Council (cityofmarcoisland.com)

Next elections: November 2020
On the ballot/incumbents: 4 Councilors/Jared Grifoni, Larry Honig, Howard Reed, Charlette Roman

  • Marco police cleared by Collier Sheriff’s office after sexual assault allegations. The accuser had made previous false accusations and has a long history of code violations. Marco Eagle, 12/18/18
  • Marco City Council selects former Delray Beach manager for interim role. Councilor Howard Reed cast the lone dissenting vote, citing multiple reasons for his decision. Marco Eagle, 12/13/18
  • Ex-Marco Island manager censured, barred from professional organization. The decision came after The International City/County Management Association (ICMA) committee on professional conduct engaged a fact-finding committee that was appointed by the Florida City and County Management Association. Marco Eagle, 12/20/18

Collier County School Board (collierschools.com; School Board)

Next elections: August 2020
On the ballot/incumbents: District 2/Stephanie Lucarelli, 4/Erick Carter

  • Collier County Public Schools achieves record 91.9 percent graduation rate. The District ranks eighth of 67 districts in 2018, up from 33rd in 2011. News from CCPS, 12/20/18
  • After more allegations lodged against school, Mason Classical Academy mulling legal action. Five months after submitting a complaint to the Florida Department of Education, the former treasurer of MCA continues to allege nefarious conduct by the public charter school. Marco Eagle via Naples Daily News, 12/3/18
  • District receives clean opinion from Florida Auditor General on fiscal 2018 financial statements. Agenda Item C170, 12/10/18
  • School Board to be briefed on new high school planned to relieve overcrowding at Gulf Coast High at January 8 meeting. Agenda Item C1
  • School Board will be asked to increase funding for appeal of Schools of Hope provisions of HB 7069 at January 8 meeting. Agenda Item D1



Upcoming Events / Meetings of Local Boards

Consider attending (or at least watching live or on-demand) an upcoming meeting of one of our local elected boards. Click the board name for details:

Naples City Council - January 16

What Does the Clerk Do for You? The Clerk of Court & Comptroller has over 1000 designated duties. Join the Clerk along with her directors for Finance, Courts, Recording, MIS, and BMR/VAB departments to learn more about the Office. January 10, 2 - 4 PM (registration required)



Tuesday, January 1, 2019

State News in Review - December 2018

News in the weeks since the November elections has been filled with stories related to the transition. While Collier’s legislative delegation is largely unchanged, the new Governor, Cabinet members, and House and Senate leaders have new priorities. The news highlighted in this post provides a good indication of what to expect in the Legislative Session ahead. Following the review of state news are links to December news by or about Collier’s representatives in Congress.

Public Education
  • More challenges for Florida’s science curricula? Two members of Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis’ transition team for education are linked to efforts to weaken the teaching of evolution and climate change. Education Week, 12/7/18
  • Florida taps Republican politician for top education post. The Board of Education unanimously chose former House Speaker Richard Corcorcan despite being urged to first conduct a national search. APNews via Naples Daily News, 12/18/18
  • DeSantis pledges more voucher funding. Among those in his inner circle, Florida Trend magazine names former House speaker Richard Corcoran and state Rep. Byron Donalds. Tampa Bay Times, 12/22/18

Financing and Delivery of Healthcare
  • Passidomo: Florida's mental health system needs total revamp. Collier's Sen. Kathleen Passidomo helped pass a law in 2016 to provide better mental and behavioral services across the state, but it was never funded. WPTV.com, 12/11/18

Election Law
  • House Democrats weigh election reforms. Proposals include adjusting voting and registration deadlines, eliminating prohibitions on counting early votes and requiring signature-matching training for supervisors and canvassing boards. Miami-Herald, 12/12/18

Gun Safety
  • School massacre panel recommends arming teachers. The group convened to investigate the Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School shootings voted 13-1 to allow the arming of teachers who volunteer and undergo extensive background checks and training. APNews, 12/11/18
  • Gun permit process needs stronger oversight, audit finds. Commissioner of Agriculture-elect Nikki Fried wants a review of the entire process. Orlando Sentinel, 12/6/18
  • Related: Problems with concealed weapons program are worse than first reported. Tampa Bay Times, 12/6/18

Environmental Protection and Pollution Control
  • Where’s Florida? Nine Attorneys General sue to stop massive harming of marine life in Atlantic. Florida AG Pam Bondi is notably absent from the legal action. Florida Phoenix, 12/20/18
  • Water woes await DeSantis; transition team wants to do more now. His 40-member panel will frame issues and identify steps to improve water quality. Tallahassee Democrat via Naples Daily News, 12/10/18
  • Related: Transition panel wants state input in Army Corps’ Lake O releases. Florida Watchdog, 12/12/18
  • SFWMD board to pay $7.2 million for test wells to cut Lake O discharges. District officials say 30 to 60 “deep injection wells” could dramatically reduce the need for discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers. Treasure Coast Newspapers, 12/13/18
  • SFWMD drops option to buy U.S. Sugar land. The deal negotiated by then-Gov. Crist called for the state to buy 187,000 acres to re-create the flow-way to the Everglades. But Gov. Scott dramatically cut the district's revenue from property taxes, citing the recession. Treasure Coast Newspapers via Naples Daily News, 12/13/18
  • Cabinet approves land deal. The state will purchase a conservation easement for $6.4 million on nearly 20,000 acres of timberland near the Suwannee River and Gulf of Mexico. Southeast AgNet Radio, 12/5/18

The economy
  • Florida businesses to see 13.8 percent decrease in workers’ comp insurance rates. “This amounts to almost a half billion dollars in savings for Florida’s business community,” Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis said. Press Release, Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, 11/9/18
  • S&P raises credit rating on Florida’s $24 billion Treasury Investment Pool to AA- from A+. S&P cited the “quality of investment, comparison with other funds with similar composition, and sound management by CFO Patronis’ Division of Treasury” as reasons they raised the rate. Florida Daily, 12/12/18
  • Florida unemployment rate drops to 3.3 percent, lowest in 12 years. Florida’s annual job growth rate has outpaced the nation for 79 of the past 80 months. Press Release, Office of Gov. Rick Scott, via Naples Daily News, 12/21/18
  • Florida’s low reemployment tax rate earned it national recognition. Since 2012, Florida has reduced its reemployment (i.e. unemployment insurance) tax rate by more than 94 percent. Sunshine State News, 12/14/18
  • Florida’s tax revenues boom as budget runs $365 million ahead of projections. DeSantis and lawmakers are looking at the biggest state two-year increase since the pre-recession peak of 2006. Tampa Bay Times, 12/19/18
  • Related: Projected surge in 2019 revenues may trigger 2020 tax refunds for Florida businesses. Watchdog.org, 12/22/18

Other matters of public policy
  • DeSantis names Seminole County elections supervisor to be Florida’s next secretary of state. Michael Ertel will replace Ken Detzner, who was appointed to the position in 2012 by Gov. Scott. Miami-Herald, 12/28/18
  • More than 20 DeSantis campaign donors advise him on important policy decisions. They may have “an outsized role” in charting a course for the administration, says Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida. Miami-Herald, 12/16/18
    • Related: DeSantis advisors reject criminal justice reforms, urge strict prison sentences. Miami-Herald, 12/21/18
  • 2019 E-Verify bills likely to revive bitter feud among Republicans. They could pit immigration reform proponents against the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the state’s agricultural industry. Florida Watchdog, 12/19/18
  • Florida's growing population to impact post-Census redistricting. The Legislature draws congressional and state legislative district lines, and is already gearing up for what could be a contentious battle. Florida Watchdog, 12/31/18
  • Who pays for Alligator Alley’s lonely fire station? Sen. Passidomo has filed SB 72 to ensure that tolls charged on the Alley cover the budget for emergency responders at the station. Florida Politics, 11/26/18
Florida Legislature - Collier Delegation Committee Assignments
  • Sen. Kathleen Passidomo (District 28) will serve as Senate Majority Leader, and as a member of the Appropriations Committee; Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services; Ethics and Elections Committee; Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee; and Rules Committee.
  • Rep. Bob Rommel (District 106) will chair the Civil Justice Subcommittee and will serve as Vice Chair of the Judiciary Committee and of the Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, and as a member of the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee, Health Market Reform Subcommittee, and Joint Legislative Auditing Committee.
  • Rep. Byron Donalds (District 80) will chair the PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee and will serve on the Business & Professions Subcommittee, Criminal Justice Subcommittee, Education Committee, PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee, and Ways & Means Committee.
  • Rep. Ana Maria Rodriguez (District 105) will serve as a member of the Business & Professions Subcommittee, Civil Justice Subcommittee, Health Quality Subcommittee, Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee, and Public Integrity & Ethics Committee.
The Florida courts
  • Court battle over felons' rights could end. The passage of Amendment 4 may make moot a suit over the constitutionality of the state’s Clemency Board process. News Service of Florida via WUSF Public Media, 12/21/18
  • Democratic legislators call for a change in how state Supreme Court judges are nominated. Proposed SB 138 and HB 93 would curb the governor's influence on the process. Tallahassee Democrat, 12/12/18
  • Medical-marijuana ruling put on hold by Florida appeals court. The case could open the door to more firms doing business in the fast-growing medical marijuana market. News Service of Florida via Sun Sentinel, 12/19/18
  • Florida Supreme Court to take up ‘Assignment of Benefits’ insurance fight. AOB has been one of the most controversial insurance issues in recent years and is expected to spur a fight during the 2019 legislative session. News Service of Florida via Palm Beach Post, 12/29/18
  • State appealing ‘liquor wall’ decision. The ruling could allow retailers to sell hard liquor in their main stores, instead of in separate stores as they do now. Florida Politics, 12/29/18
Florida Cabinet
  • Almost 70 years later, Florida prepares apology to families of the Groveland Four. The young black men were falsely accused of rape, tortured and killed or imprisoned. Incoming Clemency Board members DeSantis, Fried, Moody, and Patronis have each said they support or will consider a pardon. Tampa Bay Times, 4/19/17; Tampa Bay Times, 12/19/18; APNews, 12/19/18; Miami-Herald, 12/20/18
  • Moody to crack down on Chinese fentanyl. Fentanyl abuse was a central part of her campaign for Attorney General. She called the synthetic “much more dangerous and deadly” than heroin. Florida Politics, 12/3/18
  • Citizens Insurance board approves 8.2 percent hike in property insurance rates. The recommendation by the state’s “insurer of last resort” must be approved by the state Office of Insurance Regulation, which is administratively housed within CFO Patronis’ Dept. of Financial Services. Sun Sentinel, 12/12/18

Congress — Collier Delegation
  • Rubio sees opportunities to deal with migration from Central and South America. Miami-Herald, 12/14/18
  • Rubio introduces bill to help hospitals providing care to low-income patients. Press Release, Office of Sen. Rubio, 12/18/18
  • Rubio one of 12 senators to vote no on Trump-backed criminal justice overhaul. Politico, 12/18/18 and FOX News Radio
  • Rubio, Diaz-Balart, and Scott urge Trump to nix proposed 30-year Cuban baseball deal. Florida Politics, 12/27/18
  • Rubio releases “Fighting for Florida” report detailing his 2018 legislative accomplishments. Press Release, Office of Sen. Rubio, 12/28/18
  • Rooney's carbon tax a bipartisan effort despite conservative opposition. Naples Daily News, 12/9/18
  • Rooney: Federal Farm Bill a “waste of money”, has “bloated subsidies” for sugar companies. Rooney and Rubio voted no; Diaz-Balart and Nelson voted for the bill. Sunshine State News, 12/14/18; WINK News, 12/19/18
  • Rooney, Diaz-Balart among 60 members of Congress to urge Trump admin to fund programs related to toxic algae crisis. Florida Daily, 12/20/18
  • Rooney: Protect eastern Gulf of Mexico from offshore drilling. Cape Coral Daily Breeze, 12/28/18

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Local News in Review - November 2018

As with the State News in Review post I published Monday, I’ve slightly reformatted and added to this latest Local News in Review. The news is organized according to the governing bodies that represent us, links to their websites are included, and the names and links to the web pages of the incumbents whose seats will be on the ballot in 2020 are noted. It’s not too soon to start thinking about the next elections!

I hope in the coming months to help you familiarize yourself a bit more with our local governing bodies and what they do. You can also find links to them and more on the Helpful Websites page of my website.

This is my last post of 2018. With primary and general elections and 47 posts behind me, it’s been a great year! I am humbled that my subscriber list has grown from about 480 at the beginning of the year to 1,102 today, and there are also almost 500 Facebook followers. Knowing that so many people want to be more informed about their government is gratifying. You inspire me to keep going, and I’m looking forward to doing more next year!

Board of County Commissioners (colliercountyfl.gov)

Next election: August 2020 Primary
On the ballot/incumbent: District 1/Donna Fiala, 3/Burt Saunders, 5/Bill McDaniel; Find Your Commissioner here

Growth, development, redevelopment
  • Here we grow: Collier County’s Mark Strain on where we’re headed. Population of the county is projected to at least double, and quite possibly triple, in the next few decades. Chamber Connect via Naples Daily News/Marco Eagle, 11/9/18
  • County discusses plans for enhancing Golden Gate. At a neighborhood information meeting, Saunders supported staff recommendation to adopt zoning and incentives to encourage private landowners and developers to take the lead in improving Golden Gate. Naples Daily News, 11/15/18
  • Mega-permit for rural Collier development draws opposition, support. A conservation group is raising concerns about a plan, years in the making and now seeking federal approval, that would transform more than 150,000 acres of crops, groves, pasture and natural lands in northeast Collier County into a mix of towns and preserves. Naples Daily News, 12/1/18

Housing
  • Commissioners move ahead with affordable housing on one property, reject plan for second site. Staff will pursue options on the 5-acre “Bembridge site” on Santa Barbara Boulevard, but commissioners opposed, 3-2, considering housing on a portion of a 59-acre future site of a “Manatee Park” south of U.S. 41 in East Naples. Naples Daily News, 11/13/18
  • Related: Editorial: Opportunity missed to seek innovative affordable housing ideas. Naples Daily News, 11/17/18
  • Vacation home renters could see new rules in Collier County. The County's Tourist Development Council voted nearly unanimously to recommend county staff take a comprehensive look at vacation homes and condos offered for rent in the unincorporated area — and consider the need for stricter rules to govern them. Naples Daily News, 11/26/18
  • Related: Editorial: Short-term rentals merit attention, but not the heavy hand of over regulation. Naples Daily News, 11/27/18

Taxation
  • Tax fatigue? Collier commissioners agree to keep stormwater fee alive. They voted 4-1 (Commissioner Burt Saunders voting no) to allow county staff to continue revising a potential stormwater fee and come back with additional alternatives. Naples Daily News, 11/13/18
  • Editorial: A taxing issue to watch in Collier government. Three upcoming County Commission discussions bear monitoring by sales tax voters and citizens who historically haven’t spoken up often about the county budget. Naples Daily News, 11/25/18

Other
  • County holding public meeting on Goodland Drive. Having taken back responsibility for the frequently flooded road that is the only way in or out of Marco Island, County government is moving to alleviate flooding and restore historical tidal exchanges between the east and west mangrove stands. Marco Eagle, 11/6/18
  • BCC passes ordinance to protect residents from gas pump skimmers. Commissioners voted unanimously to add an ordinance that would require gas stations to secure fuel pumps and protect residents from a theft of their personal financial information. NBC-2.com, 11/13/18
  • Collier brings back free shuttles to Vanderbilt Beach, Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park. Funded by a state grant, the program allows beachgoers to ride to and from Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park; Vanderbilt Beach; Conner Park, on 111th Avenue North, west of U.S. 41; and a bus stop near Immokalee Road and Creekside Trail. Naples Daily News, 11/21/18
  • With no site in sight, prospects of long-promised Collier ATV park in question. The $3 million budgeted is not enough to buy a property and construct a park, said Barry Williams, Director - Collier Parks and Recreation. Naples Daily News, 11/27/18
  • Collier rejects medical marijuana dispensaries — again. Commissioners Donna Fiala and Penny Taylor again voted against the measure. Approval would have required a super majority vote. FOX4, 12/12/18

Constitutional Offices

Next elections: August 2020
On the ballot: five constitutional offices

In Collier County and Florida’s 46 other non-charter counties, voters elect five constitutional officers every four years. Each oversees an organization funded by taxpayer dollars that provides essential services to county residents.

The constitutional officers, names of Collier’s incumbents and their websites are:

While these officers and the people and activities of their offices are not often in the news, when I come across something relevant to me as a Collier voter, I’ll share it here. In November:
  • Collier Sheriff's officer runs mental health bureau with heart and soul. Lt. Leslie Weidenhammer, a former road patrol duty officer, is coordinator of the Sheriff's mental health bureau, which she helped launch in 2016 at the direction of Sheriff Kevin Rambosk. Naples Daily News, 11/17/18

Naples City Council (naplesgov.com)

Next elections: February 2020
On the ballot/incumbents: Mayor/Bill Barnett; 3 Councilors/Reg Buxton, Michelle McLeod, Ellen Seigel

  • Naples bans commercial vehicles from parking on Port Royal streets. Councilors unanimously approved the ban, after the City’s Streets and Stormwater Department director explained that service trucks parking on the side of the road are a safety concern. Naples Daily News, 11/19/18
  • Naples Beach Hotel proposed redevelopment clears first hurdle. The City’s Design Review Board members liked many aspects of the proposal, but raised concerns about its mass and size. Naples Daily News, 11/28/18
  • Coastland Mall redevelopment plans include movie theater. A final vote by the Design Review Board is required, along with City Council approval. Naples Daily News, 11/29/18
  • Naples City Council rejects ordinance that would have created ethics commission. The proposal was rejected 4-3, with council members McLeod, Hutchison, Penniman and Price dissenting. Naples Daily News, 12/5/18
  • Related: Naples Council changes course, will appeal ruling on creating ethics panel. The vote to continue the legal battle against Ethics Naples, the group behind the proposed referendum, was 5-2, with Penniman and Hutchison dissenting. Naples Daily News, 11/7/18
  • Naples Planning Board calms concerns about retaining small-town feel. The city is re-evaluating its vision plan, and there will be four public workshops in January (see naplesvisioning.com). Naples Daily News, 12/12/18

Marco Island City Council (cityofmarcoisland.com)

Next elections: November 2020
On the ballot/incumbents: 4 Councilors/Jared Grifoni, Larry Honig, Howard Reed, Charlette Roman

  • For 17 of the past 22 months, Marco Island has been without a trained, qualified, professional city manager. That absence has slowly been taking a toll on the city. By Charlette Roman, Marco City Council, Fall 2018 Newsletter
  • BCC offers two options for increasing ambulance coverage on Marco Island. Councilor Jared Grifoni, who represented the City Council during negotiations last month, characterized the offers as progress but said it was yet to be seen whether either option was right for the city. Marco Eagle, 11/15/18
  • New Marco Council voices support for former chairperson. Post-election, the Council approved a motion to express confidence in chairman Jared Grifoni by a 5-2 vote. Councilors Howard Reed and Charlette Roman, voted no. Marco Eagle, 11/19/18
  • Planning Board approves application for Marco Island assisted living facility. The application paves the wave to create a 12-acre medical campus and a 12,000-square-foot urgent care facility for NCH. Marco Eagle, 11/8/18
  • Related: Failure to give proper notice will require Marco Planning Board to re-hear assisted living facility proposal. Naples Daily News, 11/24/18
  • Marco cop cashed in personal time, bought condo after using other officers' donated hours. While City Clerk Laura Litzan said there was no explicit policy about the use of donated leave hours, the use of donated hours ahead of an employee’s own hours contradicts best practices established by human resources experts. Marco Eagle, 11/6/18


Collier County School Board (collierschools.comSchool Board)

Next elections: August 2020 Primary
On the ballot/incumbents: District 2 (Stephanie Lucarelli), 4 (Erick Carter)

  • The school district, Collier County Sheriff’s Office and Marco Island Police Department reach memorandums of understanding. The agreements provide armed school resource officers in all Collier public schools, including charter schools, through the end of the current school year. Naples Daily News, 11/16/18

Find your fire district here. Next elections: November 2020


  • Greater Naples Fire Rescue District challenged to meet expectations with limited funding. The District will “need to increase resources and capabilities, all while administering cost-effective budget strategies that maximize resources and expenditures.” Chief Schuldt's Weekly Message, 11/7/18
  • Commentary: Balancing budget against out-of-area response. Providing emergency response beyond fire district boundaries has its costs but reminds us that many decisions that commissioners tackle aren’t solely based on the budget, but must also consider the human element. By J. Christopher Lombardo, Chairman, North Collier Fire Control & Rescue District board, via Naples Daily News, 11/25/18
  • Commentary: Inter-agency cooperation between North Collier Fire & Rescue District and Collier EMS saves lives. The District’s current Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (COPCN) will expire March 31, 2019. The application for renewal will be considered by the BCC at their January 8, 2019 meeting. Message from the Board of the Fire Commissioners, 12/12/18
_______________________

Correction: As originally published, I wrote that “my subscriber list has grown from about 400 at the beginning of the year to almost 2,000 today.” The correct number is 1,102. I apologize for the unintentional error.



Sunday, December 9, 2018

State News in Review - November 2018

With the elections behind us, the transfer of power has begun. In this post, I’ll start with some transition-related news, then turn to the ongoing business of government.

Long-time readers may notice a few changes in this month’s State News in Review, and I plan to continue them going forward. I now include in the post:
  • News about our representatives in Congress - so we’ll be in a better position to evaluate and hold them accountable when they’re up for reelections, and
  • Separate sections for news about the Governor and Cabinet, the Legislature, and the Courts - to help remind us that we elect people to represent us in each of those branches of government.
If you are one of the hundreds of readers who responded to my Sparker's Soapbox subscriber survey, thank you! The input about areas of reader interest was helpful. I will work to incorporate it into my monthly “in-review” posts. And I’m also considering some new types of posts or platforms to address those interests in the months ahead. For a summary of the survey responses, visit my Sparker's Soapbox Facebook Page here.

I’ll be following up separately with the respondents who said they might be interested in an in-person class or discussion group about state and local government. If you are interested and didn’t say so in the survey, please reply to this email and let me know!

As always, thank you for your interest in being an informed voter!

The transition of power


As the result of the 2018 elections, Collier County will be represented in Congress by Republicans Rick Scott (Senator) and Representatives Francis Rooney (CD-19) and Mario Diaz-Balart (CD-25). What do these men want to accomplish in office?

  • Rick Scott wants to reinvent federal government and change, “like we did in Florida,” the direction of Washington, D.C. FOX 4, 11/7/18; see Scott’s “Make Washington Work” plan for details.
  • Francis Rooney’s top priorities are building the Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir and repairing Lake Okeechobee’s Herbert Hoover Dike. Naples Daily News, 11/7/18
  • Mario Diaz-Balart’s priorities are a strong military, a strong economy and the best possible educational system. Naples Daily News, 11/7/18

Ron DeSantis (Governor), Jimmy Patronis (Chief Financial Officer), Ashley Moody (Attorney General) and Nikki Fried (Commissioner of Agriculture) will take office on January 8. Representing Collier County in the Florida Legislature will be returning Senator Kathleen Passidomo (SD-28) and Representatives Bob Rommel (HD-105), Byron Donalds (HD-80) and newly-elected Ana Maria Rodriguez (HD-105). All are Republicans except Fried, who is a Democrat.

Some transition-related news of note:
  • A delayed swearing-in. Scott will remain in his current role until DeSantis is sworn in on January 8. A spokesman said the reason is that he “promised to fight for Florida families every single day of his term.” Miami-Herald, 12/4/18
  • What’s first on the agenda for Florida’s next governor? Ron DeSantis mentioned water quality, the environment, the Lake O reservoir, and the Florida Supreme Court in his election victory speech. Tampa Bay Times, 11/7/18
  • Newly-elected Ag Commissioner promises audit of concealed weapon permitting program. Fried’s plan has precipitated a likely legislative battle over whether the program should be moved to a different state agency - one headed by a Republican - or to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. APNews Florida via Naples Daily News, 12/2/18
  • Incoming Attorney General Moody names man who lobbied for opioid industry to inaugural committee. His recent client is at the heart of arguably the biggest lawsuit the AG’s office is handling right now. Tampa Bay Times, 11/27/18

And in the ongoing business of government:

The Governor and Cabinet


  • Over Sierra Club objections, Gov. Scott and Cabinet sign off on FPL power plant. The approval came after Scott, CFO Patronis and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam failed to disqualify themselves from the decision despite having received campaign contributions from FPL and its parent company, NextEra Energy, during the recent elections. CBS Miami, 11/30/18
  • DeSantis’ Supreme Court choices could secure Florida’s Republican reign. But some worry about the potential impact of a situation where actions by a Republican governor and GOP-led Legislature are endorsed by a conservative high court. Gainesville Sun, 12/8/18
  • Related: NAACP calls for reopening Supreme Court nominations. For first time in 36 years, there will be no African-Americans on the state Supreme Court. News Service of Florida via sunshinestatenews.com, 12/1/18
  • DeSantis quietly telling education leaders Corcoran likely next commissioner. The appointment of the staunch advocate for school choice programs would usher in a likely continuation of the pro-school choice policies that have defined the Department of Education during Scott’s two terms in office. Politico Florida, 11/30/18
  • Related: League of Women Voters objects to hasty appointment of commissioner. They urged members of the State Board of Education to conduct a national search for “an individual of the highest possible caliber” ... “and not simply “rubber stamp” a politically motivated choice.” lwvfl.org, 12/7/18
  • Arrest of opioid treatment center owner for insurance fraud underscores importance of anti-fraud efforts. “Combating fraud at opioid treatment centers will remain one of my top priorities,” CFO Patronis said. CFO Press Release, 11/9/18
  • Opioid lawsuits: Attorney General Bondi sues CVS, Walgreens and fentanyl-spray prescriber Insys. While other states reaped millions in legal settlements in the last two years, Florida stayed on the sidelines until now, despite its place at the center of Insys’ marketing blitz. Palm Beach Post, 11/21/18

The Florida Legislature


In late November, incoming House Speaker Jose Oliva and Senate President Bill Galvano laid out visions for their terms and made key assignments.

  • Oliva urges ‘restraint’ as lawmakers are sworn in. “If we allow ourselves to be told that we must learn to compromise, we will end up in an ideological mush in the center,” he said. Miami-Herald, 11/20/18
  • Florida health care ‘behind the curve’? Oliva wants to expand the scope of practice for Florida nurses, but Galvano wants to “make sure we are listening to our doctors.” News Service of Florida, 11/23/18
  • New laws? Or following the old ones? Galvano expects the Legislature to review various aspects of the elections process, but Oliva isn’t certain Florida election laws need a tweak. News Service of Florida, 11/21/18
  • Related: “It's not a question of reform. It's a question of making sure you have the proper tools to conduct a seamless election,” said Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples. NBC-2, 11/20/18
  • Galvano taps leaders of Senate committees. He slimmed down the number of lawmakers holding committee chairmanships and trimmed the number of Democrats in leadership spots. News Service of Florida via flanewsonline.com, 11/26/18
  • Related: Brent Batten: Passidomo attains a different and higher office in promotion to Senate Majority Leader. If she keeps her seat in 2022 and Republicans keep control of the Senate, she could be Senate president in the session that begins in 2023. Naples Daily News, 12/1/18
  • Oliva names committee chairs. Of note, Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, who has demonstrated willingness to further expand school choice and charter schools in Florida, will head the Education Committee. Florida Politics, 11/7/18

Public education
  • Florida voters are saying yes when school districts ask for more money. Is that a good thing?"I think the dollars ((the state provides)) to the districts are adequate for what they need to provide quality education to their students," said Passidomo, noting that some districts seem to be surviving without asking for more. Tampa Bay Times, 11/12/18
  • Florida House, Senate set to battle over education policy. A brewing fight pits supporters of traditional public schools against advocates for more school choice. Tallahassee Democrat, 11/23/18
  • Florida public school allies raise concerns. The appointments of pro-charter school lawmakers – with questionable credentials, according to their critics – as leaders of the House and Senate Education Committees have alarmed public education allies on the left and right. Tallahassee Democrat, 12/8/18
  • Battle continues over education law. More than 18 months after passage of controversial HB 7069, pushed by then-House Speaker Richard Corcoran, attorneys for the state and 11 county school boards are continuing to battle in court about whether the measure violates the Florida Constitution. News Service of Florida via news4jax.com, 11/28/18
  • Teachers with guns? The idea is back, but many Florida educators still say no thanks. Among them is Collier Schools Superintendent Dr. Kamela Patton. Tampa Bay Times, 11/30/18

Other legislative news of note
  • Rommel cosponsors bill to require 66-2/3 percent vote to amend the constitution. It’s his first and only bill filed for the 2019 session as of 12/9. HJR 57, 11/28/18. Sponsored bills of Rep. Rommel
  • Passidomo aims to protect state’s affordable housing trust fund. One of the first bills filed by the Naples Republican for this session aims to protect the State Housing Trust Fund and Local Government Housing Trust Fund, better known as the Sadowski Trust. Florida Politics, 11/29/18; Sponsored bills of Sen. Passidomo
  • Influential state senator files bill to ban "bundled" amendment proposals. SB74 offers a single-subject limitation as a legislative fix for the grouping together of unrelated measures into the same amendment. Florida Politics, 11/23/18
  • Pre-filed bills recycle failed text-drive ban. Others seek repeal of 2018 beach access law and to outlaw “conversion therapy,” restrict local regulation of residential vegetable gardens, require sea level impact projection studies and exempt diapers from sales taxes when the session begins March 5. Florida Watchdog, 11/27/1

The Florida Courts


  • Florida Supreme Court reverses course on re-sentencing for juvenile offenders. The reversal follows a change in the Court’s makeup since the earlier decision; Justice Alan Lawson was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2016. Tampa Bay Times, 11/26/18
  • Court ponders whether felons rights ruling needed. Following passage of Amendment, attorneys for the plaintiffs and the state are to file arguments about whether the federal lawsuit challenging the state’s clemency process is now moot. Ocala Star-Banner, 11/26/18
  • Florida Supreme Court, in 4-3 decision, gives Scott approval to appoint a replacement for a retiring circuit judge. A dissenting justice called the situation a “travesty.” News Service of Florida via wlrn.org, 11/27/18
  • Senate Democrats begin process to reform Florida’s troubled judicial nominating process. Court packing and lack of diversity in judicial picks spur drive for legislative action. Florida Senate Minority Office Press Release, 11/30/18

Other of note


  • South Florida Water Management District vacates consent decree on Everglades restoration. The state promised 30 years ago to clean up polluted farm water draining into Everglades National Park, but now Board members say the federal oversight is no longer necessary. TCPalm, 11/8/18
  • Water District board OKs leasing EAA reservoir project's land to sugar grower.Treasure Coast Newspapers, 11/9/18
  • Related: Critics question timing, legality of agriculture lease. Some environmental groups and politicians are fuming over a state water district's decision to extend a Florida Crystals lease on land designated for an Everglades restoration project. News-Press, 11/9/18

Note: The South Florida Water Management District is a regional governmental agency that manages the water resources in the southern half of the state, covering 16 counties from Orlando to the Florida Keys. Learn more…

  • Ethical? Ex-Senate president takes job with private prison firm, big campaign donor. As a senator, Joe Negron was instrumental in getting the company millions in taxpayer dollars and voted for a bill that would have privatized the entire prison system. Miami-Herald, 12/8/18
  • Amendment 4 passed: What’s next for convicted felons and their voting rights? Some fear state officials could drag their feet in implementing a voter-mandated overhaul of the constitution that might hurt GOP candidates. Tampa Bay Times, 11/8/18
  • Grassroots group working on a ballot measure banning assault weapons in Florida. It hopes to get its proposed amendment on the 2020 ballot. Florida Phoenix, 11/27/18

Congress

  • Francis Rooney wants to protect religious organizations from labor unions. “I introduced this bill to ensure” that “religious organizations should not be forced to bend to the will of labor unions,” he said. Sunshine State News, 11/26/18
  • Florida Congressmen push carbon fee and refunds legislation. Francis Rooney and two others are backing the “Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act” (EICDA), a proposal to reduce carbon usage with price controls and then offer rebates back to American taxpayers. Sunshine State News, 11/28/18

That’s my slightly-delayed review of November state news. Next up will be a review of local news. Stay tuned!



Sunday, November 18, 2018

Recap and reflections on the November elections

Once again, Florida’s elections made national news. I assume you've seen the results (click here for the state’s and here for Collier County’s), so in this post, I’ll dive a little deeper. First, I’ll share my thoughts about their implications for public policy and for the people of Florida. Then I’ll briefly comment on the results of the local races I wrote about on Sparker's Soapbox. Finally, I’ll point out significant differences between how Collier County voted and the state- or district-wide results to show Collier County in a broader context.

My goal is to give you a deeper understanding of our midterm elections — what the results say about Collier County, and how they might affect our local and state government, both now and in the future. And with this understanding, I hope you'll want to continue to read Sparker's Soapbox in the months ahead. Why? Because if we don’t monitor what our elected officials do and don’t do while in office, we won’t be informed enough to reward or hold them accountable come the next elections!

Implications of the election results


The outcome of the federal elections has been the focus of much recent attention as what some are calling a slow-moving Blue Wave gave the Democrats control of the House, gaining 37 seats as of November 17. (But see So, Was It A Wave?) But the two Democrat pickups in Florida (the Miami-area’s District 27 and south Florida’s District 26) were not enough to flip the state’s congressional delegation. And after a manual recount, Florida Democrats lost a U.S. Senate seat to Republican former governor Rick Scott.

At the state level, Republicans won the governorship, two of the three Cabinet seats (Democrat Nikki Fried won the Commissioner of Agriculture race following a manual recount), and the majority of the Legislature. So there will be a continuation of the agenda that outgoing Governor Rick Scott, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron championed. Their successors will be Ron DeSantis, Jose Oliva and Bill Galvano, respectively.

About DeSantis, the new (July 2018) online state-news website Florida Phoenix writes:
“His far-to-the-right ideology will help reshape the Florida Supreme Court for decades to come.... His campaign agenda includes signing “pro-life legislation into law,” defending Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms and defending “First Amendment speech rights against those in academia, media and politics who seek to silence conservatives.... He is likely to battle teacher unions over expanding voucher programs and support more public charter schools run by private groups, rather than focusing on traditional public schools. He is a foe of the Affordable Care Act and favors tough immigration measures.”

The 2019 Florida Legislature will look much like it did in 2018. While Democrats picked up six seats in the House, Republicans retained control of 73 of the 120 seats, or 61 percent (see here).

In terms of policy, of note is that incoming Speaker Oliva has named Rep. Jennifer Sullivan to head the House Education Committee. She has been an ally to conservative education groups and their concerns, championing home schooling and tax credit scholarships in previous Legislative sessions. In addition, Oliva named Rep. Travis Cummings to chair the powerful Appropriations Committee. He was one of 67 legislators to pass the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act as a standalone bill in the 2018 Session, and in the 2013 Session, he sponsored a bill that narrowly expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

In the Florida Senate, too, Republicans retained control. In the 2019 session, they will hold 23 of the 40 seats, or 57.5 percent. Democrats picked up one seat and will hold 17 seats, or 42.5 percent (see here).

Incoming President Galvano has not yet named committee leadership, but recently said he wants to consider changes to the election laws in view of the issues that arose during the unprecedented three state-wide recounts. Regarding Amendment 4, which restores voting rights to former felons, he said that while some aspects might require legislative implementation, lawmakers would not “slow-walk” putting it into statute.

At the local level, incumbent Penny Taylor was elected to a second term on the Board of County Commissioners. With no change in Board make-up, expect a continued focus on the Board’s current priorities and issues.

Implications of the constitutional amendments


Only one of the twelve amendments — Amendment 1 - Increased Homestead Property Tax Exemption failed, receiving two points less than the required 60 percent of the vote. The eleven that passed have varying effective dates

Here are my thoughts on those that will have the greatest effect:

Results of the local races


About 8.2 million votes were cast statewide; Collier County represented less than 2 percent of them. Here, 157,097 ballots were cast.
  • County Commission District 4 — Incumbent Penny Taylor was challenged by Democrat Gary Petit-Dor. Unknown Petit-Dor received 30 percent of the vote, which was surprising; Taylor’s win was not.
  • Mosquito Control Seat 1 - John Johnson will return to the Commission after his defeat in 2016. He won with 48 percent of the vote in a three-way race with Victor Dotres (29 percent) and Dennis Sanders (22 percent).
  • Mosquito Control Seat 2 - Sandra Lee Buxton received 76 percent of the vote, crushing challenger John Shuey (24 percent).
  • County Judge Group 2 - Blake Adams narrowly defeated Jim Moon by just 102 votes in a race that was ultimately confirmed in a manual recount. Each candidate received just over 57,000 votes; over 42,000 people left the race blank, a 27 percent undervote.
  • The sales surtax - Surprisingly, given the conservative nature of the Collier electorate, the sales tax narrowly passed with 50.87 percent of the vote, a margin of 2,498 votes. 

Collier County in the broader context


It’s no surprise that the majority of Collier voters overwhelmingly chose the Republican candidate in each of the partisan races on their ballots. Collier County has been dominated by the Republican Party for some time. As of the official book closing for this election, 50.7 percent of Collier voters were registered as Republicans, 23.8 percent were registered as Democrats and 25.5 percent were all other, including No Party Affiliation. For the state as a whole, 35.4 percent were registered as Republicans, 37.2 percent as Democrats and 27.5 percent as all other, including NPA.

In state-wide races, the results were much closer for the state as a whole than they were in Collier County; the margins in three of them — U.S. Senator, Governor and Commissioner of Agriculture — were less than 0.5 percent, necessitating a recount by state law. Note the significant difference in the Commissioner of Agriculture vote, which went to the Democrat after a manual recount, but which overwhelmingly supported the Republican in Collier County.




On the amendments, also not surprisingly, Collier voters more strongly supported those that gave them more tax benefits (Nos. 1 -- which did not pass -- and 2) or limited future tax increases (No. 5) than did voters state-wide. Another significant difference between Collier and the state-wide results was the eight-point difference on the amendment to automatically restore voting rights to former felons (No. 4). Had Collier’s 57 percent favorable vote rate been mirrored statewide, the amendment would not have passed.



In district-wide races, the Collier vote was much closer to the vote of the district of which it is a part, but in all but one case (State Attorney) went more strongly for the Republican candidate. In races that had an incumbent on the ballot, s/he was overwhelmingly supported for another term.


* * * * * * * *

So there you have it: my thoughts about the implications of the election results and constitutional amendments, some comments on the results of some local races, and a look at how Collier County voted, but in a broader context. I hope this was helpful ... and thought-provoking. Let me know if I accomplished my goal!