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!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Local News in Review - October 2018

More than a year after Hurricane Irma devastated Southwest Florida, our County and City governments are still dealing with its effects ... the County Commission continued its efforts to facilitate more affordable workforce housing and to reach agreement on whether to make the zoning changes necessary to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in the County ... and the Naples City Council decided not to appeal a court's ruling on creating an ethics panel, and they were unable to reach agreement on what to do about its fertilizer ban.

Why should you care about state and local news? Because if we voters don’t monitor our government in action and 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!

So with that, here’s my October 2018 Local Government News in Review:

Irma recovery

  • Collier County approves $250,000 campaign to lure visitors back after red tide. County officials will tap into an emergency advertising fund for the “Beaches Are Open” and "Return to Paradise" marketing campaigns and place ads on travel websites, with news outlets and on social media platforms. Naples Daily News, 10/9/18
  • Collier replacing Irma-damaged wall on Vanderbilt. Construction is scheduled to start this month and be completed by Jan. 10, according to County Commissioner Andy Solis, whose North Naples district includes that stretch. Naples Daily News, 10/15/18
  • Hurricane Irma destroyed almost 2,000 trees in the City of Naples — when and how will they be replaced? FEMA and insurance reimbursement won’t be enough; grants and donations are welcome. Naples Daily News, 11/1/18

Housing

  • Affordable housing proposals are moved forward by Collier County Commission. Commissioners approved, in some cases by 3-2 votes, recommendations ranging from regulatory relief to increased density, and unanimously rejected a mixed-income housing program, often called inclusionary zoning. Naples Daily News, 10/9/18
  • More or less traffic? Apartments planned for North Naples intersection worry residents. According to a traffic impact statement presented during a County Commission meeting in September, the new complex would bring 24-hour two-way volume down by more than a thousand vehicles. Naples Daily News, 10/19/18
  • Future Habitat for Humanity project to have a wall, at the request of Collier neighbors. County Commissioners unanimously approved rezoning to allow a new project off Greenway Road in East Naples after Habitat agreed to neighbors' calls for a wall to be built between them and the new housing. Naples Daily News, 11/2/18

Other County government action

  • Economic development zone proposed for Golden Gate. Commissioner Burt Saunders proposed the Innovation Zone to develop or improve local infrastructure, fund projects for industrial or manufacturing plants, lease or convey property, and provide grants to existing businesses or to attract new ones to the community. Naples Daily News, 10/3/18
  • Brent Batten: Gas pump locks proposed in Collier to prevent credit card theft. Commissioner Burt Saunders suggested the county follow Cape Coral's and Charlotte County’s lead and adopt an ordinance to deter gas pump skimmers. Naples Daily News, 10/11/18
  • Collier to reconsider allowing medical marijuana dispensaries. But with at least four votes needed to make needed amendments to the county’s land development code, and continued opposition by Commissioners Donna Fiala and Penny Taylor, it is unclear if the renewed push to will come to fruition. Naples Daily News, 10/23/18
  • Sales tax dispute fails to upend economic development deal with Chamber — for now. Commissioners voted 3-2 to strike down Commissioner Bill McDaniel’s proposal to end the agreement early, which would have saved the county $66,667. Naples Daily News, 10/23/18
  • Collier commissioners put off stormwater fee proposal until after election. County staff is working on a revamped plan to fund the $120 million in capital needs that address concerns raised by residents about the plan earlier this year. Naples Daily News, 10/25/18

Naples City Council

  • Naples City Council split on how to revise a fertilizer ban meant to stem water pollution. Councilman Gary Price wants a full blackout during the rainy season; others want to stop use during the winter. Naples Daily News, 10/15/18
  • Naples floats changes to beach boat storage program amid environmental concerns. Councilors support doubling the storage locations while halving the number of watercraft at each, keeping the same total of 31 beachfront boats. Naples Daily News, 10/15/18
  • Naples Council won't appeal ruling on creating ethics panel, will seek compromise. The council has scheduled a special meeting in November with Ethics Naples to find a compromise on some of the city's issues with the proposal. Naples Daily News, 10/17/18
  • Naples approves $207,500 to give first responders control of traffic lights. The Opticom system, which is already in place in parts of Collier County, reduces response times. FOX4now.com, 10/17/18
  • City Council considering additions to long-awaited Baker Park. They include a nearly $3 million main building, restrooms and picnic shelters. The park has an estimated completion date of October of next year. NBC-2.com, 10/31/18

City of Marco Island

  • Marco public works director accepts blame for not notifying public of roadwork. City Council Vice-Chair Charlette Roman asked for an explanation after a large throng of residents made their displeasure known when their commute times were multiplied by unforeseen challenges commuting on and off the island. Marco Eagle, 10/18/19
  • Increased testing the first step to solving Marco Island water quality issues. City Council will hold a water quality workshop after elections in November. Marco Eagle, 10/23/18
  • Marco officer promoted to supervisor after sex scandal has not performed duties. The police department has come under intense scrutiny over the past few months after multiple violations of police policy were sustained against officers after the allegations surfaced. Marco Eagle via Naples Daily News, 10/12/18
  • Marco police investigating another officer for misconduct while on duty. Two police sergeants resigned earlier this year as internal affairs investigations were launched as a result of allegations that they separately had engaged in sex on duty with the same woman. Marco Eagle, 11/2/18

Collier County Public Schools

  • Ex-treasurer of the Mason Classical Academy public charter school alleges lax financial oversight, verbal abuse. A complaint filed with the Florida Department of Education states the school’s top administrators, under the guidance of Mason Principal David Hull, “knowingly and willfully created an environment … where fraud can occur without detection.” Naples Daily News, 10/6/18



Sunday, November 4, 2018

State News in Review - October 2018

Tuesday, November 6, is Election Day! The polls will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. You may vote only at your assigned precinct based on your legal residence. Use the Collier Supervisor of Elections’ Precinct Finder or call (239) 252-VOTE.

With elections top-of-mind, I’ll begin with the latest on voter turnout and campaign finance that Collier voters might want to know. But elections aside, the business of government did continue in October, and there were some developments you should be aware of. Among them: Hurricane Michael made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane near Mexico Beach, FL, on October 10, affecting residents’ ability to vote and putting a strain on state reserves, and the debate over who gets to appoint Florida’s next three Supreme Court justices continued to play out.

Voter turnout


  • States’ early turnout setting records ahead of Election Day. Associated Press via Miami-Herald, 11/3/18

Voter Turnout


Campaign money


I reviewed the campaign contributions and spending reported through Saturday for each of the candidates for federal or state office on Collier voters’ ballots (summarized here). Of particular note:
  • U.S. Senate - Rick Scott's bid to unseat Democrat Bill Nelson is “this year's most expensive Senate race, as control of the chamber hangs in the balance.” (CNBC.com, 10/31/18) Nelson has raised and spent $28 and $25 million, respectively, none his own money. With one week to go, Scott had contributed more than $64 million of his own money to his race, nearly reaching the $70 million he spent to win the governor’s race in 2010. (Tampa Bay Times, 11/1/18)
  • U.S. House District 19 - Incumbent Francis Rooney has refused to debate and is barely campaigning, while challenger David Holden seems to never stop. Holden raised $.5 million to Rooney’s $.7 million, and spent $.4 million to Rooney’s $.9 million. (FEC.gov, 11/03/18)
  • Governor - Big-money donors give DeSantis slight lead in fundraising for Florida governor's race. (Naples Daily News, 10/25/18; dos.myflorida.com, 11/03/18)
  • Agriculture Commissioner - Given that this was the most contested of the three Cabinet offices during the primaries, I was surprised that it raised and spent the least of the three in this election. Nikki Fried (D): $1.0 and $1.6 million, respectively; Matt Caldwell (R): $1.8 and $1.5 million, respectively. (dos.myflorida.com, 11/03/18)
  • Chief Financial Officer - Well-connected Scott appointee/incumbent Jimmy Patronis (R) raised and spent three times his opponent, Jeremy Ring (D). Patronis: $2.4 and $2.3 million, respectively; Ring: $.8 and $.8 million, respectively. (dos.myflorida.com, 11/03/18)
  • Attorney General - This was the biggest-money Cabinet race. Ashley Moody (R): $5.2 and $4.0 million, respectively; Sean Shaw (D): $2.7 and $1.9 million, respectively. (dos.myflorida.com, 11/03/18)
  • Senate District 28; House Districts 80, 105, 106 - In their heavily Republican districts, it’s no surprise that incumbents Kathleen Passidomo, Byron Donalds and Bob Rommel raised and spent far, far more than their Democratic challengers Annisa Karim, Jennifer Boddicker and Sara McFadden, respectively. McFadden came the closest, raising 84 percent of Rommel’s $.2 million and spending 48% of his $.1 million. In District 106, with no incumbent running, Republican Ana Maria Rodriguez crushed Democrat Javier Estevez in funds raised and spent. (dos.myflorida.com, 11/03/18)

Responding to Hurricane Michael


  • Major policy issues may arise out of the storm. The state has nearly $4 billion in reserves to help address the immediate needs of communities impacted by Michael, but the Legislature likely will be asked to appropriate other funds to help with various hurricane-related issues. Herald-Tribune, 10/13/18
  • After Hurricane Michael, Florida election chiefs look at 'Plan B and Plan C' for voters. From Leon to Okaloosa, election supervisors are confident the November election will proceed with voters having access and ballots getting counted. Tallahassee Democrat via Naples Daily News, 10/17/18
  • Scott emergency order expands voting opportunities, doesn't delay election. In-person and absentee voting opportunities were expanded for residents of the eight counties hardest hit by Hurricane Michael, but the order stops short of extending the Nov. 6 general Election Day in the counties. Politico Florida, 10/18/18
    • RelatedHurricane Michael's devastation in GOP-rich FL Panhandle could affect midterm elections. Naples Daily News, 11/3/18
  • Senator Bill Nelson calls on Florida Legislature to reverse construction code law. Before visiting areas devastated by Hurricane Michael, Nelson called out the Legislature and Governor Scott for a 2017 law he says allows builders to strip international building standards from Florida codes. WFSU Public Media, 10/17/18

The battle over the State Supreme Court


As we reported in The upcoming battle over Supreme Court appointments, three of Florida’s seven state Supreme Court justices reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 this year, raising the question, “Who gets to appoint their successors: Governor Scott, as he completes his term, or the successor governor?” Scott first claimed the authority last year (see my July 2017 post Florida League of Women Voters and Common Cause sue Rick Scott) and in September 2018 ordered the Judicial Nominating Commission to start interviewing candidates. In October, the League and Common Core won their lawsuit, but a question remained.

  • Florida Supreme Court ruling raises stakes of governor’s election. The state Supreme Court said the job of replacing three retiring justices belongs not to lame-duck Gov. Rick Scott but to his successor. Miami-Herald, 10/15/18
  • Scott can’t make ‘midnight appointments,’ but can his appointees do so? All nine Judicial Nominating Commission members are Scott appointees. Florida Watchdog, 10/16/17
  • New lawsuit filed over Florida Supreme Court picks. The League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause asked the Court to block the Judicial Nominating Commission from interviewing candidates. APNews.com, 10/26/18

Public education


One of the first things the newly-elected governor will have to do is develop a state budget to submit to the Legislature by February 3 — a month ahead of the 60-day legislative session. (See Transition for new governor will be challenging, News Service of Florida via Herald-Tribune, 11/2/18). Since education is the second-biggest expenditure in the state budget (see Fiscal Analysis in Brief), expect more articles about public education in the coming months:


The environment


  • Everglades restoration must deal with rising ocean, new report says. Eighteen years into the multi-billion-dollar restoration of the Everglades, a scientific review committee has called for a broad re-examination of future projects in view of changing climate conditions in Southwest Florida. Sun-Sentinel, 10/17/18
  • U.S. Senate authorizes $1.6 billion reservoir to cut Lake O discharges; President Trump expected to sign legislation. Getting the federal money, though, could take a couple of years. TCPalm via Naples Daily News, 10/11/18
    • Related: President Trump Signs Water Resources Bill into Law. Sunshine State News, 10/23/18
    • Related: Statement by Senate President Negron on President Trump signing America’s Water Infrastructure Act. Senate Press Release, 10/23/18
  • State Sen. Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples): To stop algae problem, get serious on septic tanks. “We need to do more than focus on a few large polluters,” she said. Florida Politics, 10/15/18

Other news of note


  • Mayors score a victory in court battle over the NRA-backed state law which blocks local firearm regulations. A Leon County judge is allowing a lawsuit to go forward over whether local Florida officials have the right to pass gun laws in their towns and cities. Florida Phoenix, 10/18/18
    • RelatedFlorida forces towns to pull local laws limiting guns, New York Times, 9/10/11
  • Florida opens investigation into priest sex abuse against children. Attorney General Pam Bondi encourages victims – including anyone who was victimized at any churches, youth groups, schools, and other institutions - to report the crime, no matter how long ago it occurred. Florida Phoenix, 10/4/18
  • Fakahatchee strand preserve will get $1.3 million upgrade. The Florida legislature appropriated the funds to upgrade the park’s Big Cypress Bend boardwalk along US 41 and improve access, accessibility and viewability of the natural surroundings. Marco Eagle via Naples Daily News, 10/18/18
  • Florida probably won’t get permanent Daylight Saving Time. The Florida Legislature approved it this year, but it's been met with steep opposition in Congress. Tampa Bay Times, 10/31/18



Monday, October 29, 2018

It’s time to mail your Vote By Mail ballot!

Election Day is Tuesday, November 6. The U.S. Postal Service recommends that you mail your Vote By Mail (VBM) ballot one week before the due date to account for any unforeseen events such as weather issues and to allow for timely receipt and processing by the election office, you should mail it no later than Tuesday, October 30. A postmark doesn’t count. 

Be sure to complete these steps to ensure your VBM ballot is counted:
  • Completely fill in the ovals corresponding to the candidate and/or referendums of choice. Use blue or black ink. If you make a mistake, ask for a new ballot. Do not cross out or your vote may not count.
  • Place the completed ballot in the enclosed green secrecy sleeve.
  • Place both the ballot and the secrecy sleeve in the return envelope provided.
  • Sign in the box below the voter certificate on the return envelope. The signature must reasonably match the signature of registration. Click here to learn more about the importance of updating your signature before you Vote by Mail or contact the Supervisor of Elections at (239) 252-VOTE (8683).
  • Return your Vote by Mail ballot by mail, with 71 cents postage (or two Forever Stamps), or in person to the Supervisor of Elections Main Office at 3750 Enterprise Avenue, Naples, or the Satellite Office at the North Collier Government Center, 2335 Orange Blossom Dr, Naples. Voted ballots cannot be accepted at a polling place or an early voting site.

Once you’ve mailed your ballot, you should make sure it is received. You can do that at colliervotes.com/Vote-by-Mail/Status-of-Request

If, 3-4 days after mailing, your ballot has not been received, call the Supervisor of Elections Office at (239) 252-VOTE (8683) and ask what you should do.

If you requested a VBM ballot but want to vote in person

Bring your Vote By Mail ballot with you and surrender it at the polling place so it can be cancelled. If you arrive at the polling place without your VBM ballot, you will still be permitted to vote, but you will be asked to destroy it after voting in person.

If you already returned your VBM ballot to the Supervisor of Elections office, you many not go to the polls to vote. 

Voters who vote more than once in the same election commit a felony and will be turned over to the appropriate authorities for prosecution.

For the Collier Supervisor of Elections' Vote-by-Mail Frequently-Asked-Questions, click here.