Sunday, March 3, 2019

Local News in Review - February 2019

Here’s my latest review of news for Collier voters about our local elected officials and governing bodies.

In a sentence: the Board of County Commissioners continued exploring development/redevelopment options for East Naples and the eastern county, amended the land development code to attract affordable housing, halted new median landscaping due to budget constraints, and began discussing a possible county-wide fertilizer use ordinance with the cities of Naples and Marco Island; the Naples’ Planning Advisory Board continued review of a proposed redevelopment of the Naples Beach Hotel and golf course; the Marco City Council rejected requested zoning changes related to the Olde Marco Inn and a proposed assisted living facility; and the North Collier Fire District’s plans for fire stations stirred controversy.

Read on for these stories and other news of note from February!

Board of County Commissioners 


Reporting and insight by Brent Batten, Liz Freeman, and Patrick Riley - Naples Daily News 
Next elections: August 2020 Primary. Find your commission district HERE.

Growth, development, and redevelopment

  • Potential buyers eye County land in Estates after residents balked at bus barn idea. Commissioners voted to further explore plans for a property swap between the county and the Collier school system that would put a joint vehicle maintenance facility on the land. District 5 Commissioner Bill McDaniel cast the lone dissenting vote. Naples Daily News, 2/2/19
    • Related: County taking offers on Golden Gate Estates acreage. Naples Daily News, 2/12/19
  • Plan for labs, lofts, arts and shops along Bayshore in East Naples draws interest, skepticism. The project will continue to be scrutinized by the Bayshore Gateway Triangle Community Redevelopment Area advisory board and others before going back before the County Commission. Naples Daily News, 2/12/19
  • Commissioners pass measures to lure affordable housing. The changes to the land development code increase the affordable housing density bonus from 8 to 12 units per acre, which means a maximum of 16 units per acre, in some cases, would be allowed. Naples Daily News, 2/18/19
    • Related:Opinion: Calling it a housing crisis is a stretch. By Donna Fiala, Collier County Commissioner District 1, via Naples Daily News, 2/20/19

Environment

  • Brent Batten: Summer use of fertilizer a growing concern in Collier County. But after three hours of sometimes conflicting testimony at a meeting of Collier County commissioners, Naples City Council members, and Marco Island councilors, it was clear that a consensus on an ordinance doesn't exist. Naples Daily News, 2/12/19 
  • Opinion: We may never get a second chance to weigh in on decisions affecting this much growth in Collier County. Attend the “Future Land Use and Build-out Workshop” on March 5 and have your voice heard. By April Olson, Senior Environmental Planning Specialist, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Florida Weekly, 2/28/19, via Naples Daily News
  • More oil drilling proposed for southern Florida. But nothing is imminent since these projects require extensive permitting and preparation. Sun-Sentinel via Naples Daily News, 2/12/19

Other County news

  • Collier mental health committee tasked with shaping new treatment center. Early draft plans foresee a 24/7 central receiving facility in a 55,000-square-foot building on the campus of the David Lawrence Center on Golden Gate Parkway. Naples Daily News, 2/10/19
    • Related: Depositions ordered in David Lawrence Center dispute with foundation over land for expansion. Naples Daily News, 2/9/19
  • More buses, running longer into night considered to ease traffic in Collier County. Despite projected budget shortfalls even without increasing service, Commissioners Solis and Saunders acknowledge the need. Naples Daily News, 2/5/19
  • 90 percent of Collier gas stations in compliance with new security. Commissioners created a new ordinance as a way to deter thieves from stealing personal information using chip readers and skimming devices. NBC-2.com, 2/11/19
  • Brent Batten: Money for Collier median landscaping running dry; what to do? Maintenance costs have increased from $44,000 per mile in 2017 to $73,000 today, as demand for landscape maintenance labor has not kept up with requests. Naples Daily News, 2/23/19
    • Related: Faced with rising costs, Collier stops new median landscape projects for now. Naples Daily News, 2/26/19
  • Commissioners reject procedural step required to move forward with stormwater fee proposal. The vote was 3 to 2 against approving a procedural step required to preserve the county’s right to use residents’ property tax bills as the method of collecting any proposed future fee. Naples Daily News, 2/26/19

Naples City Council


Reporting and insight by Brent Batten and Lisa Conley - Naples Daily News
Next elections: April 2019 (see below); February 2020. 
  • Naples Beach Hotel redevelopment plan vote delayed amid size concerns. Developers will submit revised plans at the City Planning Board’s March 13 meeting. Naples Daily News, 2/13/19
    • Related: Editorial: Proposal to redevelop Naples Beach Hotel site merits support. Naples Daily News, 2/14/19
    • Related: Brent Batten: How high is high? At the Beach Club, it's not easy to envision. Naples Daily News, 2/26/19
  • Council won't scale back hours of operation for construction workers. Concerns raised earlier in the month were addressed by partnering with the building industry so members decided to leave the hours unchanged. Naples Daily News, 2/19/19; also 2/7/19
A special election to fill the Naples City Council seat recently vacated by Linda Penniman will be held on April 2. City residents who wish to vote in the election must register by March 4. The deadline to request a Vote-By-Mail ballot is March 31. Details here.
  • Council candidates discuss development, water quality in first forum. They were largely in agreement about many of the most pressing issues facing the city. Naples Daily News, 2/27/19
The City of Naples wants to hear from city residents and businesses! They are invited to complete a survey by March 8 as part of the city’s visioning plan assessment. More here.

Marco Island City Council

Reporting by Devan Patel - Naples Daily News / Marco Eagle
Next elections: November 2020
  • Commentary: Marco begins 2019 with first step toward effective government. With the professional help of the interim city manager, I’m hopeful the council will establish a framework for effective governance, one that will be less volatile and subject to manipulation. Charlette Roman, Member, Marco Island City Council, via Naples Daily News, 1/11/19
  • Marco Island ups penalties for violations of endangered species ordinance. But Council stopped short of adding the strictest penalties it can. Marco Eagle, 1/11/19
  • Council rejects assisted living facility. Approval of the requested rezoning would have facilitated the construction of a three-story, 143 unit facility on five of 12 acres. Naples Daily News, 1/23/19
  • Council takes preliminary steps in city manager search. A senior advisor with the Florida City and County Management Association will meet individually with Councillors about what they are looking for in a manager and the city’s most pressing concerns. Marco Eagle, 1/29/19

Collier County School Board

Next elections: August 2020

Fire Districts

Reporting by Jake Allen - Naples Daily News
Next elections: August 2020. Find your fire district HERE.

North Collier Fire District 
  • North Collier fire board unanimously takes neutral position on fire fee legislation. The move came less than six months after voters soundly rejected a proposal that would have allowed fire fees to be levied in the North Collier district. Naples Daily News, 2/13/10
  • North Collier Fire District's plans for stations stir up controversy. Response times and neighborhood intrusion are factors in both proposed moves, which the fire district has been wrestling with for months. Naples Daily News, 2/21/19
That’s it for February’s local news. Later this month: a post on the Naples City  Council candidates … Stay tuned!


Thursday, February 28, 2019

State News in Review - February 2019

In the past month, our Florida government began gearing up in earnest for the 60-day Legislative Session that begins next week. Gov. Ron DeSantis issued his first budget proposal, announced an executive order to implement school security measures, and made clear his support for alternatives to traditional public schools, among other noteworthy actions ... Cabinet members Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, Attorney General Ashley Moody, and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis set to work on the priorities they campaigned on ... House and Senate committees began meeting ... and legislators filed more than 3,000 bills to be considered in the Session.

This post shares highlights of the month’s state news from Tallahassee, as well as some interesting news about our representatives in Congress.

Gov. Ron DeSantis

Like the president at the federal level (here), Florida’s chief executive presents a budget recommendation before the start of each year’s legislative session to be considered by the House and Senate in drafting their own. DeSantis’s 2019-20 budget proposalis for $91.3 billion, $2 billion more than the current fiscal year.

DeSantis' budget proposal
  • DeSantis unveils budget plan. Despite campaigning as a fiscal conservative, he not only didn’t take a meat ax to state spending — he spread dollars around freely. Gainesville Sun, 2/1/19
  • Heath care, education consume $50.8 billion in DeSantis’ budget request. His health care request is largely status quo; his K-12 education request includes an overall three percent increase per full-time enrolled (FTE) student – double what lawmakers approved last year. Florida Watchdog, 2/3/19
  • DeSantis wants to expand Gardiner Scholarship program for students with special needs. It is one of four state-backed programs that pay tuition for private schools. The proposed expansion would provide an average of $10,400 to students ages 3 to 22 and cost an estimated $19 million. Orlando Sentinel, 2/4/19
  • DeSantis: Use Trump tax plan to expand charter schools. He wants to give “Hope” charter schools more turf by expanding program guidelines to allow them to open in areas designated as opportunity zones under the $1.5 billion tax plan. Politico Florida, 2/19/19
  • DeSantis proposes $422 million increase in Best & Brightest teacher bonus program. He also wants funding for teacher recruitment and loan forgiveness or tuition waivers for 1700 people who commit to teaching for at least five years in Florida, among other proposals. Tampa Bay Times, 2/7/19
  • DeSantis’ school tax proposal raises concerns among House Democrats. It follows the same taxing practice as the past three years — lowering the local property tax rate to keep collections stable, with the exception of the rate charged on newly added construction. Tampa Bay Times, 2/7/19
Other news about the Governor
  • DeSantis issues executive order implementing school security measures; appoints grand jury to investigate school districts' post-Parkland actions. His orders focus largely on recommendations and findings by the commission convened after the Parkland shooting attack. Tampa Bay Times, 2/13/19; Executive Order, 2/13/19
  • DeSantis issues bills on his key education ideas. Many lawmakers have said they like the ideas, but some may bristle at the governor’s unusual attempt to do their job of writing laws. Tampa Bay Times, 2/18/19
  • DeSantis keeps Valenstein as Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection. The move quickly drew praise from a number of conservationists. News Service of Florida, 2/18/19; Press Release
  • DeSantis names four to South Florida Water Management District board. Marco Island City Councilor Charlette Roman and Sanibel City Councilor Chauncey Goss were among the appointees. Naples Daily News, 2/21/19
  • DeSantis calls on Trump to base proposed Space Force at Kennedy Space Center. The state’s aerospace economic development agency is pitching the state as a possible headquarters for Space Force or U.S. Space Command, the nation’s 11th unified combatant command, which also is in the works. Orlando Sentinel, 219/19
  • DeSantis wants Floridians to access cheaper prescription meds from Canada. The program would require support from both the Legislature and the federal government, which DeSantis said he has because of his relationship with Trump. Tampa Bay Times, 2/20/19
    • Related: Senate president cautious on DeSantis drug importation proposal. Tampa Bay Times, 2/22/19

COA Nikki Fried

  • Fried appoints Florida’s first Director of Cannabis. She will be involved in efforts to expand the hemp industry in the state,and to provide better access to medical marijuana. Florida Phoenix, 2/6/19
    • Related: Hemp program proposed for Florida as state officials eye potentially lucrative industry. News Service of Florida via Sun Sentinel, 2/14/19; HB 333SB 1020
  • Nikki Fried taps Gwen Graham’s husband to oversee concealed carry. The NRA has kind words to say. Florida Politics, 2/13/19

AG Ashley Moody

  • Moody appears in court during first hearing on state’s lawsuit against opioid drugmakers and distributors. Her appearance made a bold statement and a big impression in the state’s case against major drug manufacturers and distributors, including CVS and Walgreens. WFLA.com, 2/6/19; WFTS Tampa Bay, 2/6/19
  • Human trafficking ring busted on Treasure Coast. “This should be an example of how we will act going forward to stop this plague on our communities,” State Attorney General Ashley Moody said. TCPalm/Treasure Coast Newspapers, 2/19/19

CFO Jimmy Patronis
  • Patronis cites cancer coverage for firefighters as top legislative priority. The bill requires employers to grant insurance, disability and death benefits to a firefighter “upon receiving a diagnosis of cancer if certain conditions are met.” Florida Watchdog, 1/29/19; SB 426
  • Patronis seeks banking changes for medical marijuana. Citing a “tremendous safety threat,” he asks President Trump to use his executive power to allow banks to do business with state-authorized medical marijuana companies. News Service of Florida via Orlando Sentinel, 2/8/19

Other Executive Branch news
  • Florida recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital. Florida placed itself a step ahead of the Trump Administration, which recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital previously but has not spoken of whether it supports a united or divided Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Post, 1/31/19
  • State challenges pot dispensary ruling. As lawmakers weigh changes to the state’s medical marijuana laws, the Florida Department of Health has appealed a circuit judge’s ruling that struck down a limit on the number of dispensaries that marijuana businesses can operate. News Service of Florida via Florida Politics, 2/19/19
  • Key election officials have no previous election experience. Florida’s new secretary of state and two key election supervisors in some of the state’s most populous counties have never run an election. Fresh Take Florida News Service via AP News, 2/12/19

News from the Legislative Branch

Education
  • Senate education leaders announce 2019 priorities. Senators discuss legislation to improve safety, empower families, elevate neighborhood public schools. Press Release - The Florida Senate, 2/21/19
  • Senate pushes expansion of school vouchers; poll shows parent support for scholarships. The new scholarship, or voucher, program would do what Gov. Ron Desantis suggested earlier this month, using money from the state budget to pay for private school for up to 15,000 students on the waiting list for Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship program. Orlando Sentinel, 2/25/19
    • Related: Critics question value of foundation’s school choice survey. Tampa Bay Times, 2/25/19
  • Florida lawmaker files another bill to expand private school scholarships. This one builds on last year’s “Hope Scholarship” (“anti-bullying”) bill to make it easier for students to get an award, and allow private school students to be eligible for a scholarship. Tampa Bay Times, 2/27/19; SB 1410
  • Push is on for Bible ed in public schools. The proposals are getting more attention because they're linked to an initiative called Project Blitz coordinated by conservative Christian political groups which have put out a more than 100-page playbookthat lays out very plainly their strategy. USA Todayvia Naples Daily News, 2/4/19; HB 195
  • Senate committee approves arming teachers. The sweeping school-security package would make it easier for school districts to participate in a controversial “guardian” program and would allow classroom teachers to be armed. News Service of Florida, 2/13/19; SB 7030
    • Related: $2 million for Florida school 'guardian' program goes to gun equipment. Orlando Sentinel, 2/13/19
  • Have Florida teens learn civics in action, state lawmakers say. They propose a plan to get students actively involved in the process through a high school U.S. government and civic engagement half-credit course that includes a nonpartisan community project. Tampa Bay Times, 2/22/19; HB 1037SB 1316
Environment
  • Beach replenishment funding decisions would be revamped under FL legislator's bill. Under the proposal, there would be a "much more refined" set of criteria for the state's allocation of money for beach and inlet restoration projects. Florida Today via Naples Daily News, 1/31/19; SB 446
  • Two new bills in the Legislature want to prevent local governments from banning plastic straws. The state preemption of local regulations, if approved by lawmakers during the upcoming legislative session, would take effect July 1. News Service of Florida via WLRN.org, 2/1/19; HB 603SB 588
  • House and Senate on different paths to a fracking ban. Environmentalists applauded the Senate proposal and scoffed at the House's; the oil and gas industry rejected both. Tallahassee Democrat, 2/13/19; SB 314 / HB 7029
Other news
  • Florida's leaders taking baby steps on path to medical marijuana. The House and Senate are closer to reaching consensus on repeal of the current smoking ban, but two differences remain. News Service of Florida via Sun Sentinel, 2/27/19 HB 7015SB 182
  • Florida lawmakers revive push to ban 'sanctuary cities,' mandate cooperation between local cops and ICE. The legislation would give whistle-blower protection to officers who report people they suspect to be in the country illegally to federal authorities, while also protecting crime victims and witnesses from having their immigration statuses disclosed. Orlando Sentinel, 2/7/19; SB 168
  • Lawmakers target no-nos behind the wheel: texting, petting your dog and more. Opponents say the proposed law is too broad and raises concerns about racial profiling and unequal enforcement. Tampa Bay Times, 2/25/19; CS/SB 76

News about the Judicial Branch
  • Appeals court clears way for Everglades drilling. The decision overturned a decision by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. News Service of Florida via News-Press, 2/5/19
  • Revamped Florida Supreme Court rejects minimum wage case. The move by the now-conservative majority resulting from DeSantis’ appointments was the first major demonstration of the Court’s ideological shift. News Service of Florida via Daytona Beach News-Journal, 2/5/19
  • Judge rejects move by South Florida water managers to end Everglades oversight. After he repeatedly questioned attorneys about the timing of the motion, the judge decided moving forward while the South Florida Water Management District board remains in flux was unwise. Bradenton News, 2/11/19
  • Judges: Florida 'disenfranchised' voters by rejecting ballots for signature mismatches. The signature-mismatch lawsuit was one of myriad election challenges related to Florida’s November election. News Service of Florida via Sun Sentinel, 2/15/19
  • Judge: Census fight might cost Florida a seat. Including a citizenship question could hurt states with large immigrant populations in the once-a-decade congressional reapportionment process that will follow the Census. News Service of Florida via nwfdailynews.com, 2/18/19
News from Collier’s Congressional delegation

U.S. Rep. Francis
  • Rooney joined with Democrats to overturn Trump’s emergency declaration. TheHill.com, 2/26/19
    • Related: Why Francis Rooney voted to terminate Trump’s national emergency. Tampa Bay Times, 2/27/19
  • Rooney pushes resolution on rising seas. Sunshine State News, 2/11/19; H. Res. 112
U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart
  • Diaz-Balart talks infrastructure funding in new spending package.   Florida Politics, 2/15/19
  • Diaz-Balart one of eight Republicans who crossed party lines on expanded background check vote. Roll Call, 2/28/18
U.S. Sen. Rick Scott
  • Scott sponsors Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. FOX35orlando.com, 2/7/19 
  • Scott slams Rubio's proposal to end preferential tax treatment of share buybacks. CNBC, 2/14/19
  • Scott urges Congress to create a path for 'Dreamers' to permanently stay in the US. CNBC, 2/14/19 
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio
  • Opinion: The truth about B.D.S. and the lies about my bill.By U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio via The New York Times
That’s it for February's state news. Next up: February 's Local News in Review. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Local News in Review - January 2019

Here’s my latest review of news for Collier voters about our local elected officials and governing bodies.

In a sentence: Commissioners elected Bill McDaniel as Chairman and named members of the Sales Surtax Citizen Oversight Committee; growth, development and redevelopment activity continued; Naples Councilwoman Linda Penniman resigned due to concerns over her husband’s health and a special election is scheduled for April 2; the City will be moving more than 900 properties off septic tanks at a cost of almost $15 million; and Marco Island takes preliminary steps in its city manager search. 

For more on these stories and other news you should be aware of, read on!

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 commission district HERE.

Sales tax surcharge
  • Commissioners appoint sales tax oversight committee members. They will review expenditure reports and validate expenses to make sure the proceeds from the tax increase are used only for expenses allowed under the sales tax hike plan. Naples Daily News, 1/10/19
Growth, development, redevelopment
  • Rural Lands town idea scaled back from 4,000 acres to village of 1,000 acres or less. Some conservationists welcomed the news, but cautioned that even a smaller proposal needs to be cognizant of environmentally sensitive lands and endangered species. Naples Daily News, 1/9/19
  • Immokalee Road median landscaping east of 951 to be completed this spring. Pump stations for the irrigation wells were recently installed. Naples Daily News, 1/14/19
  • Proposed 350 apartments in North Naples draw criticism at public hearing. So County planning commissioners (again) put off a vote on Stock Development’s request for an amendment to the county’s growth management plan. Naples Daily News, 1/17/19
  • Golf course purchase proposal moves forward. Commissioner Fiala cast the lone dissenting vote when it became clear that fellow commissioners were opposed to keeping the property a golf course. Naples Daily News, 1/22/19
    • Related: Golden Gate golf course where homes planned offered to county for $28 million. Naples Daily News, 1/17/19 
    • Related: Editorial: Golden Gate golf course opportunity merits close consideration. Naples Daily News, 1/19/20
  • Immokalee Area Master Plan gets a new chance at approval. The Collier County Planning Commission will continue a page-by-page review of the latest version of the plan on Feb. 21 before making recommendations to the BCC. Naples Daily News, 1/31/19
  • Potential buyers eye County land in Estates after residents balked at bus barn idea. Commissioners voted to further explore plans for a property swap between the county and the Collier school system that would put a joint vehicle maintenance facility on the land. Commissioner McDaniel cast the lone dissenting vote. Naples Daily News, 2/2/19
    • Related: Editorial: Collier should try to do better than a bus barn for Estates residents. Naples Daily News, 2/6/19
Other County news
  • County to study impact of short-term vacation rentals like Airbnb. Commissioners voted unanimously to support the county Tourist Development Council’s recommendation. Naples Daily News, 1/9/18; Action Item 7619
    • Related: Vacation rentals may be in legislative battle between local vs. state control this year. Naples Daily News, 1/31/19
  • McDaniel elected chairman of the BCC. Burt Saunders was appointed as the board’s vice chairman. GNCC Advocacy Watch, 1/12/19
  • Whose beach is it? Condo owners, The Ritz stake their claims, shoo public away. Commissioners do not plan to open the private beaches for the public, Commissioner Andy Solis said. Naples Daily News, 1/13/19
  • Medical marijuana law changes sought by Commissioners. Chairman McDaniel will send a letter to the Governor offering proposals to make marijuana dispensaries more acceptable to places like Collier County. Naples Daily News, 1/24/19
  • County unveils new emergency notification system for storms, brush fires, evacuations. The location-based free service, called Alert Collier, will allow county officials to send mass alerts to subscribers via text messages, phone calls, emails and hearing impaired devices. Naples Daily News, 1/30/19; www.alertcollier.com
  • Fire prevention fee hits church in the collection plate. The new system of billing for access to county water by churches, nonprofits, businesses and others results in savings to some but a big increase for others. Naples Daily News, 2/5/19

Naples City Council (naplesgov.com)

Next elections: April 2019 (special election/Linda Penniman); February 2020
On the ballot/incumbents: Mayor/Bill Barnett, Councilors/Reg Buxton, Michelle McLeod, Ellen Seigel
  • Naples to hold special election April 2 to fill seat vacated by Linda Penniman. The qualifying period for candidates began Jan. 28 and ends Feb. 8. The winner will serve the rest of Penniman's term, which expires Feb. 1, 2022. Naples Daily News, 1/24/19
    • Related: Penniman resigns due to husband's health concerns. Naples Daily News, 1/16/19
    • Related: Ted Blankenship, Ray Christman and Randy Read qualify to run for vacant Naples City Council seat. Naples Daily News, 1/30/19
    • Related:  Former Naples City Manager Bill Moss and former attorney George Dondanville qualify for special election. Naples Daily News, 2/4/19
  • Proposed NCH Downtown ER expansion clears another hurdle. But the Planning Advisory Board stipulated that the hospital devise more solutions to potential parking problems before the City Council hearing. Naples Daily News, 1/9/19
  • City to move forward with proposal to move more than 900 properties off septic tanks. The total cost will be about $14.7 million. Naples Daily News, 1/14/19
    • Related: Editorial: Naples takes a small but important step in what must be a statewide effort. Naples Daily News, 1/16/19
  • Council votes to spend $1 million to improve Naples Bay water quality. The vote was unanimous, but Vice Mayor Gary Price asked for a definition of success from a data-driven water quality perspective. Naples Daily News, 1/16/19
  • Council keeps “Boats on the Beach” program afloat. A final vote and public hearing are required at a future meeting. Naples Daily News, 1/18/19; About the Program
  • Dredging of Gordon Pass put off when Army Corps diverted funding. Because it is a federal channel, only the Corps can do the dredging. City staff are drafting letters to state representatives urging funding for the project. Naples Daily News, 1/17/19

Marco Island City Council (cityofmarcoisland.com)

Next elections: November 2020
On the ballot/incumbents: 4 Councilors/Jared Grifoni, Larry Honig, Howard Reed, Charlette Roman
  • Commentary: Marco begins 2019 with first step toward effective government. With the professional help of the interim city manager, I’m hopeful the council will establish a framework for effective governance, one that will be less volatile and subject to manipulation. Charlette Roman, Member, Marco Island City Council, via Naples Daily News, 1/11/19
  • Marco Island ups penalties for violations of endangered species ordinance. But Council stopped short of adding the strictest penalties it can. Marco Eagle, 1/11/19
  • Council rejects assisted living facility. Approval of the requested rezoning would have facilitated the construction of a three-story, 143 unit facility on five of 12 acres. Naples Daily News, 1/23/19
  • Council takes preliminary steps in city manager search. A senior advisor with the Florida City and County Management Association will meet individually with Councillors about what they are looking for in a manager and the city’s most pressing concerns. Marco Eagle, 1/29/19

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

Next elections: August 2020
On the ballot/incumbents: District 2/Stephanie Lucarelli, 4/Erick Carter
  • New high school site lauded by School Board. The 2001 School Board purchased the 60 acre “Site GGG” with foresight, anticipating the future need. Naples Daily News, 1/9/19
    • Related: Brent Batten: There's a new high school coming to northern Collier County. Naples Daily News, 1/5/19

Fire Districts

Next elections: August 2020. Find your fire district HERE.

North Naples Fire Control and Rescue District 
  • New fire station in North Naples still possible after commissioners reject land sale. Commissioners directed staff to meet with representatives of the Orange Blossom-Pine Ridge Community Alliance to see whether they would support some form of a fire station on the property. Naples Daily News, 1/9/19

Greater Naples Fire Rescue District
  • District starts 14 new firefighters. A federal three-year grant enables the District to increase the number of two-person quick response medical squads. Message from Chief Schuldt, 1/9/19
  • Greater Naples Fire Chief calls on County to regulate storm shutter use due to safety concerns. Chief Kingman Schuldt wants homeowners to take down their storm shutters 30 days after a hurricane passes or 30 days after hurricane season wraps up. NBC-2.com, 1/14/19

North Collier Fire District 
  • Strategic planning benefits community’s fire service. The District’s recently completed 2018 - 2023 strategic plan documents its current status, short-term and long-term goals, and availability of resources to achieve those goals. By J. Christopher Lombardo, Chairman, North Collier Fire District Board of Commissioners, via Naples Daily News, 01/15/19

That’s it for January's local news. Have a great February!

Sunday, February 3, 2019

State News in Review - January 2019

In the weeks since their swearing-in ceremonies, Gov. Ron DeSantis, Commissioner of Agriculture (COA) Nikki Fried, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis and Attorney General (AG) Ashley Moody announced some pretty dramatic initial initiatives — DeSantis in particular.

And from Washington, U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and newly-elected Rick Scott, and re-elected U.S. Reps. Francis Rooney and Mario Diaz-Balart were much in the news, too. Of note: Rooney is turning out to be a member of Congress who works across party lines.

So with those greater-than-usual flurries of activity, I’ll focus this month on news from or about our elected representatives specifically. Next month, I’ll share news from the Florida legislature. Its official 60-day session convenes on March 5.

But first — In case you missed it, there was a particularly troubling report last month of a hostile takeover bid for Gannett, publisher of USA Today and 100 other newspapers including the Naples Daily News. According to the NYTimes, critics have described hedge fund Alden Global Capital as a “destroyer of newspapers” that is prone to “savage” layoffs, and as “one of the most ruthless of the corporate strip-miners seemingly intent on destroying local journalism.”

I have long urged pretty much everyone I know to subscribe to the Naples Daily News. Despite the downsizing of its staff and reduction in local reporting since its acquisition by Gannett in 2015, it’s still the best source of information about our local government. If the takeover goes through, I fear we may become one of the more than 1,300 U.S. communities to totally lose news coverage.

www.usnewsdeserts.com/states/florida/


See also "The Elbert Files: It's time to break up Gannett," BusinessRecord.com via Dr. Michael V. Reagen, 2/1/19.

I’m really concerned, and you should be, too. If you don’t already subscribe to the Naples Daily News, I urge you to do so. Consider it a form of community service. Click here for a great 52-week Digital Only Groupon offer, or subscribe directly here.

Now, here’s January’s news.

Gov. Ron DeSantis

It’s been a whirlwind month of news from Tallahassee as outgoing Gov. Rick Scott was succeeded by newly elected Ron DeSantis. Here are just some of the highlights — in chronological order, to give you a sense of the drama.

  • DeSantis takes the reins. He emphasized clean environment in his inaugural speech, but the two biggest audience cheers were about traditional conservative hot button issues – immigration and “activist judges.” Florida Phoenix, 1/8/19
    • Related: DeSantis' inaugural speech as prepared for delivery. Orlando Sentinel, 1/8/18
  • DeSantis’ unveils major environmental reforms. An executive order includes $2.5 billion over the next four years for Everglades restoration and water protections — the highest level of restoration funding in the state’s history, a blue-green algae task force, creating a chief science officer position, phasing out septic tanks, putting teeth in environmental crime enforcement and creating an office of resilience and coastal protection to fund and coordinate a response to rising sea levels. Naples Daily News; Governor’s Press Release, 1/10/19
  • Governor, Cabinet as Clemency Board pardon Groveland Four. “I don’t think there was any way that you can look at this case and see justice was carried out,” DeSantis said. Tampa Bay Times, 1/11/19
  • DeSantis to pursue sanctions against Airbnb over West Bank policy. He called its decision not to list properties in “the Biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria” anti-Semitic. Tampa Bay Times, 1/15/19
  • Governor wants smokable medical pot ban ended. DeSantis criticized the Legislature’s implementation of a medical marijuana law. Naples Daily News, 1/17/19
  • DeSantis retracts 46 of Scott’s last-minute appointments in rebuke of his predecessor. Scott made 84 appointments to various boards, committees and courts on Jan. 4 and 7 before his term ended on Jan. 8, against the wishes of the DeSantis team. Tampa Bay Times, 1/18/19
  • DeSantis’ latest move shows he’s picking his targets carefully, some say. In his first two weeks of office, he has suspended the elected Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections, Broward County Sheriff and Okaloosa County School Superintendent, and demanded the resignations of the entire board of the South Florida Water Management District. Palm Beach Post, 1/19/19
  • DeSantis poised for immigration battle over E-Verify. Getting it through the Legislature – and a related bill barring so-called “sanctuary” policies – could prove challenging. Palm Beach Post, 1/18/19
  • DeSantis calls for $625 million for water projects in environmental priorities. “This is the first of four steps to get to the $2.5 billion that I committed to in my executive order,” DeSantis said. Naples Daily News, 1/29/19
  • DeSantis supports letting trained school employees carry guns. He also said the state needs to step up efforts to head off potential attackers. News Service of Florida via Pensacola News Journal, 1/29/19
  • DeSantis outlines plan for increasing college grads. He’ll issue an executive order that will help Florida go from being ranked 24 to number one in the nation by 2030 for the rate of people with an associate degree or higher. APNews.com, 1/30/19
  • DeSantis takes aim at Common Core in executive order. He asked Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to spend a year creating new state curriculum standards, which would then be presented to the Legislature for the 2020 session. Tampa Bay Times, 1/31/19; Executive Order

Key DeSantis appointments

  • DeSantis picks strong opponent of Medicaid expansion to head Agency for Health Care Administration. AP News, 1/4/19
    • Related: Feds whacked new Florida health chief for failing to probe hundreds of disabled deaths, sexual assaults. Miami New Times, 1/14/19; Federal Department of HHS Office of Inspector General Report, 8/2017
  • DeSantis names former Department of Management Services head, IBM lobbyist to lead state’s long-troubled child welfare agency. Miami-Herald, 1/3/19
  • DeSantis names former judge, lobbyist to head the Department of Juvenile Justice, “arguably one of the state’s most troubled agencies.” Miami-Herald, 1/2/19
  • Army Major General will head Florida Department of Corrections. Florida Phoenix, 1/3/19
  • DeSantis appoints second Secretary of State, following resignation of first pick. The Capitolist, 1/28/19
    • Related: Florida Secretary of State Mike Ertel resigns after Halloween blackface photos emerge. Tallahassee Democrat, 1/24/19
  • DeSantis reshapes Florida Supreme Court.
    • Gov. DeSantis appoints Carlos Muñiz to Florida Supreme Court. Tampa Bay Times, 1/22/19
    • Gov. DeSantis names Miami appellate judge Robert Luck to Florida Supreme Court. Tampa Bay Times, 1/14/19
    • DeSantis Names Judge Barbara Lagoa to Supreme Court. Sunshine State News, 1/9/19
  • DeSantis asks South Florida Water Management District board members to resign. Treasure Coast Newspapers via Naples Daily News, 1/10/19
    • DeSantis appoints Sanibel Councilman Chauncey Goss to water district board. Naples Daily News, 1/29/19
    • DeSantis names Broward’s “Alligator Ron” Bergeron to water district board. Miami-Herald, 1/29/19

COA Nikki Fried

Fried, a lawyer and previously a lobbyist and public defender, is the only Democrat in the Florida Cabinet and the only Democrat representing Collier voters. She ran to head the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services on a platform of stricter access to guns, easier access to medical marijuana, and cracking down on water pollution.

  • Fried creates 'Director of Cannabis' position. She promises to expand patient access to medical marijuana and transform Florida into a national leader on hemp production, an industry that could bring millions of dollars into the state economy. Naples Daily News, 1/14/19
  • Ag Commissioner Fried taps Mary Barzee Flores for Deputy Commissioner of Consumer Affairs. The former public defender, gun control advocate and critic of the NRA will oversee consumer services, including the concealed weapons permitting and licensing program. Tampa Bay Times, 1/14/19
  • Ag Dept. to draft edible medical marijuana rules. Fried says the product falls under packaged foods, which her agency is responsible to regulate. BayNews9.com, 1/17/19
  • Nikki Fried adds LGBTQ protections to department workplace policy. The move followed Gov. DeSantis’ signing an anti-discrimination order for state employees that excluded protections for the LGBTQ community. Miami-Herald, 1/18/19
  • Fried lays out vision and agenda for Florida's farmers, consumers, and families. “It's my hope that together, as a Cabinet, we will put science before politics, results over opinions, and state above party…,” she said. Press Release, 1/30/19
  • Fried announces more help for marijuana patients. Two new advisory panels will cover hemp and medical marijuana. Florida Politics, 1/30/19

AG Ashley Moody

Ashley Moody, previously a Hillsborough County Circuit judge, ran for Attorney General on a platform to “champion conservative principles and stand with those who protect our state.”

  • New AG addresses human trafficking. “It’s a plague that we cannot give up on combating in our state and nationwide,” Moody said, highlighting that January is human trafficking prevention month. Florida Phoenix, 1/10/19
  • Moody names advisory Opioid Abuse Working Group. It will gather information and best practices from across Florida to help her combat the opioid epidemic. Office of the Attorney General, 1/11/19
  • Moody open to ‘improving’ criminal justice. But “in any effort to make our system better, … we have an obligation to keep our communities safe and protect Floridians, and that will always be my primary concern,” she said. Florida Politics, 1/3019

News from CFO Jimmy Patronis

  • Audit: Florida's pension system earns 8.9% on investments, but problems lurk ahead. The number of people with vested benefits exceeds the number currently contributing to the pension fund, and the systems’s unfunded liability has nearly doubled since 2009. Tallahassee Democrat, 1/4/19
  • Florida’s financial software 30 years overdue for upgrade. Patronis told the House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee his top priority is to get the state off the archaic software. Florida Politics, 1/23/19

News from Collier’s legislative delegation

In the Florida Legislature, County Collier residents are represented in the Senate by Kathleen Passidomo, and in the House by one of Bob Rommel (District 106), Byron Donalds (District 80) or Ana Maria Rodriguez (District 105).

  • Editorial: Septic systems merit attention, action by the Florida Legislature. Sen. Passidomo supports SB 214. Naples Daily News, 1/5/19
  • Florida lawmakers consider changes after surge in teacher licensing exam failures. Rep. Donalds, who leads a state education committee, says updating Florida's exam is a top priority, from lowering its fees to re-evaluating what's on it. WTXL.com, 1/23/19
  • Alligator Alley plaza costs may fall on Collier County taxpayers. Passidomo is pushing for legislation that would require the state to pay for the station with the money it receives from I-75 tolls. WINKnews.com, 1/31/19; SB 72 / HB 6011
  • Donalds wants grand theft laws loosened.Florida Politics, 1/31/19; HB 589
  • Donalds wants to expand apprenticeship training in Florida. His bill would allow providers like the Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida, the largest commercial construction association in the state, to request money directly from the state via a grant program. Florida Daily, 1/31/19; HB 367
  • First Step Act promises moderate reforms to prison system. The bill, sponsored in the House by Donalds, would allow judges to depart from mandatory minimums for drug trafficking, among other changes. Daily Commercial, 2/1/19

News from the Florida Courts

  • Florida Supreme Court tosses out decade-old education funding lawsuit. Four members upheld a lower court ruling that terms such as "high quality" are too subjective to be judged, while three justices dissented. Tampa Bay Times, 1/4/19
  • Amira Fox sworn in as first female State Attorney in the 20th judicial circuit, which includes Collier County. One of her first orders of business will be establishing a circuit-wide narcotics task force to crack down on the sale of opioids in Southwest Florida. Fort Myers News-Press via Naples Daily News, 1/11/19
  • Judge rules on Medicaid contract. A Leon County Circuit Judge found the state exceeded a limit on the number of health plans state law allows to serve Medicaid beneficiaries in Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hendry, Lee and Sarasota counties. The state quickly appealed. Gainesville Sun, 1/28/19

News from Collier’s Congressional delegation

U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney

  • Rooney explains why he thinks America should end its dependence on coal. “I don’t think we need to burn coal,” he said, “and a carbon tax is the most market-oriented, non-bureaucratic, efficient way I can see to kill off coal.” News-Press, 1/1/19
  • Rooney introduces bill to permanently protect Florida’s Gulf Coast from offshore drilling. Press Release, 1/3/19
  • Rooney joins ten House Democrats to introduce bill requiring HHS Secretary to negotiate Medicare prescription drug prices.Press Release, Rep. Peter Welch (E-Vt.), 1/8/19
  • Rooney files algal bloom legislation. NBC-2, 1/10/19
  • Brent Batten: Rooney starts the steep climb toward term limits, again. Naples Daily News, 1/12/19
  • Rooney doubles down on his support of Trump’s immigration policies. Florida Daily, 1/13/19
  • Welch, Rooney demand regulator scrutiny of $74 billion drug company merger. Press Release, Office of Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), 1/14/19
  • Editorial: Kudos to Rep. Rooney, bipartisan Florida delegation for unified request for Everglades funds. Naples Daily News, 1/26/19

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart


  • Diaz-Balart co-sponsors bipartisan Everglades for Next Generation Act. Florida Daily, 1/11/19

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio

  • Rubio starts new Congress focused on the Middle East. Sunshine State News, 1/5/19
  • Rubio introduces bill to extend moratorium on drilling in Gulf through 2027. Pensacola News Journal via Naples Daily News, 1/5/19; S.13
  • Rubio, as newly-elected Chairman of Senate Small Business Committee, introduces five bills to assist small businesses. Financial Regulation News via Sen. Rubio Weekly eNewsletter, 1/15/19
  • Rubio joins with Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein to extend waivers to states for foster care, child welfare. Florida Daily via Rubio eNewsletter, 1/14/19
  • Ahead of the March for Life, Rubio introduces or co-sponsors six bills to “protect the sanctity of life.” Press Release, 1/17/19
  • On Venezuela, Rubio assumes U.S. role of Ouster in Chief. NYTimes, 1/29/19

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott

  • Scott sides with Trump on lifting Russia sanctions; Rubio doesn’t. Tampa Bay Times, 1/17/19
  • Scott tells Trump to use emergency powers to end immigration crisis. The Daily Caller, 1/25/19
That's it for January's review of state news. Next up: local news. Stay tuned!