Friday, August 29, 2014

Reflections on Tuesday's Elections

Let’s start with the positives: I’m pleased with the outcomes of most of the races. I’m glad Charlie Crist will face Rick Scott for governor and that George Sheldon will face Pam Bondi for attorney general in November. There are substantive issues at stake and an opportunity for important community dialog and debate.

I’m thrilled and relieved that Roy Terry was re-elected to the School Board. The alternative, though a real possibility, was unthinkable. Depending of the outcome of the District 3 election in November, Mr. Terry could be an important mediator between Board members with very different points of view in Board decisions for the next four years.

Though I don’t live in County Commission District 4 and couldn’t vote in that election, I’m glad Penny Taylor won that race. I’m hopeful this will maintain the current ideological balance on the Commission, especially in terms of impact fees and the growth management philosophy of growth paying for growth, which I support.

And I’m glad that each of the three candidates I voted for in the judicial races was elected.

But I am very disappointed and concerned about the outcomes of the races for School Board Districts 1 and 3. As I’ve written and explained in prior posts, I supported Kathleen Greenawalt and Luis Bernal for those positions.

And I am dismayed at the voter turnout and the number of under-votes in the various races. Those are the specific election outcomes I want to look at in this post.

When it comes to citizen engagement in the political process, I look at three metrics:
  • Voter registration - the percent of people eligible to vote who are registered to vote
  • Voter turnout - the percent of registered voters who actually submit a ballot for an election, whether by mail, early vote, or on election day
  • Under-votes - the difference between the number of ballots cast in an election and the number of votes cast in a particular race
An under-vote occurs when a voter votes on less than all of the races for which she/he is eligible to vote. This could happen either because a voter doesn’t see the contest on the ballot, or because the voter chose not to vote for any candidate for that contest, either because she/he doesn’t want to make an uneducated choice or because she/he doesn’t like any of the candidates.

I’ve been told by what I believe are knowledgeable sources that Collier County doesn’t have a voter registration problem. (If anyone has data or a reference on this, please let me know.) While there are no doubt pockets of the county where we could find eligible people to register, that’s not where we need to spend our time and energy.

What we have is a voter turnout problem and, in this election in particular, an under-vote problem.

In terms of voter turnout, only 21 percent of the County’s registered voters (38,774 out of 185,016) cast a ballot. Four out of five registered voters couldn’t be bothered. I find this appalling.

By party affiliation, the Democrats were far worse than the Republicans.

Voter Turnout by Party Affiliation

How many of our snowbirds took the trouble to request and vote a mail ballot?

In terms of under-votes, a full 15 percent of Democrats who voted for a candidate for governor didn’t vote for one of the attorney general candidates.

Democratic Attorney General Primary Under-votes

The School Board and judicial races were nonpartisan and county-wide. Registered voters could vote in those six races regardless of their party affiliation or where in the county they live. And yet look at these numbers:

Judicial Races - Under-Votes

School Board Races - Under-Votes

Only one in five of the one in five who bothered to vote at all voted in the judicial races, and only slightly more voted in the School Board races.

Thousands of our fellow community members who took the trouble to vote for SOMEONE didn’t vote in these races.

There are many reasons for this. Some people who are busy with their daily lives say they don’t have the time or the energy to vote.

Some are uninformed. I was told that someone who doesn’t have children in the public schools didn’t realize they are entitled to vote for School Board.

Some people just don’t care.

We have to do something about this.

To start, I ask each of you to identify someone you know who didn’t vote and find out why. Explain to her or him what YOU think is at stake, and why YOU think THEIR vote is important.

Make it personal.

If we work together, one neighbor at a time, maybe we can build a more informed, engaged community between now and the November elections.

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Last Chance for Now!

Tomorrow is Election Day, your last chance (for now) to influence who will represent you in a number of elected offices at the state and local levels.

If you’ve been waiting to vote on Election Day, here are a few things to remember:

  • You must vote at your assigned precinct. Find it here.
  • You must bring a photo ID and a signature ID. The easiest is a Florida driver license, which covers both. Other options here.
  • If you requested but haven’t voted your absentee ballot, bring it with you to vote so it can be cancelled.
  • Polls are open from 7am to 7pm.

Finally, as a reminder, here’s who I voted for on my Democratic Party ballot:

If you know anyone who might appreciate your (or my) recommendations, please pass this along!

Thank you, and thanks for voting!

Friday, August 22, 2014

An Update on a Previous Post

In an earlier post titled Where are Collier’s Democratic Party and No Party Affiliation Voters?, I reported that my mail ballot had been received by the supervisor of elections’ office, but was “being processed.” I said:
I will keep checking back with this website until I see that my ballot has been counted and not put aside as provisional for some reason. If it has been, I’ll be sure to rectify the problem.
This morning I called the Supervisor of Elections’ Office at (239) 252-VOTE to ask what “being processed” meant. I was told it was nothing to worry about; that if anything had been wrong, I would have been sent a letter telling me so.

If you, too, see that your ballot was received and is being processed, then apparently all is well.

I will check back on Election Day to make sure the website says that my ballot was counted.

Also, a reader pointed out that I used the word “provisional” incorrectly in the post. According to Florida law, a provisional ballot is one that is voted by
“…a voter claiming to be properly registered in the state and eligible to vote at the precinct in the election but whose eligibility cannot be determined, a person whom an election official asserts is not eligible, and other persons specified in the [election] code…”
The important thing to know about provisional ballots is that if you are told by an election worker that you cannot vote, and if, after hearing the reason, you still believe that you are, you may request and comple a provisional ballot. You should then be given written instructions about how to provide the supervisor of elections with written evidence of your eligibility to vote. The county canvassing board will later examine each case and determine whether the provisional ballot shall be counted or not, under the law.

I have revised Where are Collier’s Democratic Party and No Party Affiliation Voters? on the Sparker’s Soapbox website to clarify these points.

Bottom line: If you have any questions about the status of your mail ballot, don’t hesitate to contact the Supervisor of Elections at (239) 252-VOTE.

Who I Voted for on my Primary Ballot: Summary

My analysis of the candidates and races has been spread out over a number of weeks, and I know it’s been hard to keep track.

So by way of a summary, here’s who I voted for on my Democratic Party primary ballot:

If you know anyone who might appreciate your (or my) recommendations, please pass this along!

Thank you!

Where are Collier’s Democratic Party and No Party Affiliation Voters?

With Election Day less than a week away, I thought I’d check in on how things are going. Bottom line: I’m concerned.

As of 4pm on Thursday, August 21, a total of 25,069 ballots had been cast. This represents only 14 percent of registered voters.

Bad as this is, it’s about half of the 25- to 28 percent turnout expected by Melissa Blazier, chief deputy supervisor of elections for Collier County.

In other words, half the people expected to vote in Tuesday’s election have yet to do so.

Since Republicans are by far the majority in the county, it’s not surprising that more Republican votes have been cast than Democrat votes. But look at the difference in voter turnout:

Republicans represent 50 percent of registered voters, but represent 68 percent of the votes cast. So far, 18 percent of registered Republicans have voted.

Democrats represent 24 percent of registered voters, but because of a much lower turnout, only account for 21 percent of ballots cast.

And Others - including No Party Affiliation - are even worse.

Where are Collier’s Democratic Party and Other (NPA, etc.) voters??

Which led me to ask:

Was my mail ballot received?

According to the Supervisor of Elections website, my ballot was received and is being processed. I wasn't sure what "being processed" meant, so I called the Supervisor of Elections' office at (239) 252-VOTE.  I was told it was nothing to worry about; that if anything had been wrong, I would have  been sent a letter telling me so. Good news. Still, I will check back with this website on Election Day to make sure that my ballot was counted.

If you voted by mail, I encourage you to check the status of your ballot, too. Here's how.

Go to and click on Mail/Absenttee and then, in the menu to the right, click on Status of Request. See the photo below.

Enter your last name, birth date and the house number of your residence address where indicated, and click Submit.

On the page that opens, in the middle box on the page, click on Show My Absentee/Mail Ballot Information. In the white-colored box that opens, confirm that your ballot was received by the office. You should see the address to which your ballot was mailed and the date sent. If it was received, you should see the date received and the status.

Or just call the Supervisor of Elections Office at 239–252-VOTE and ask if your ballot was received. If it was not, be sure to do what it takes to make sure it is! And do it soon!

There’s still time, but ...

The last day for early voting is Saturday, August 23. You can vote at any one of the eight early voting locations in Collier County. Find them by clicking here.

Election Day is Tuesday, August 26. On Election Day, you can only vote at your assigned local precinct. Find it by clicking here.

Remember: this is an important election - especially the School Board races - and much is at stake.

On another note: If you are receiving this post by email, did you know you can find an archive of all my past Sparker’s Soapbox posts online at If you know others who might be interested, please send them to that website, where they can sign up to receive future posts by email, too!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Meet the Candidates: Democratic Primary for State Attorney General

Unlike the races covered in my previous posts about this month’s nonpartisan elections, only registered Democrats can vote in the Attorney General primary. In November, the winner will face incumbent Pam Bondi (R) and Libertarian Party of Florida candidate Bill Wohlsifer.

Through August 8, Bondi raised $2.8 million, nearly five times the amount raised together by Democratic Party challengers George Sheldon ($347,106) and Perry Thurston ($222,887), according to the Florida Elections Commission. And Bondi faces no primary challenger. Wohlsifer has raised just $27 thousand.

Which candidate has the better chance of beating Bondi? The most recent polling I could find (Public Policy Polling, 6/10/14) says it’s a close call:
Attorney General Pam Bondi holds small leads for reelection over her potential Democratic opponents- she’s up 38/35 on George Sheldon and 40/33 on Perry Thurston. The high level of undecideds is reflective of the amount of attention most voters pay to down ballot offices. 42% have no opinion about Bondi’s job performance as Attorney General, with those who do have one evenly split at 29% approval and 29% disapproval.
With that said, let’s look at the candidates.

George Sheldon

George Sheldon
George Sheldon is an attorney, legislator and public servant. He received both his B.A. (1969) and J.D. (1978) from Florida State University.
His website reveals a history of service and commitment to children and families:
  • Legislative Aide to Florida Senator Reubin Askew (D) - 1969–1970.
    • Askew served as Florida’s Governor from 1971–1979. According to Wikipedia, “Askew is widely thought to have been one of the state’s best governors. He led on tax reform, civil rights, and financial transparency for public officials, maintaining an outstanding reputation for personal integrity.”
  • Assistant to the Deputy Secretary, Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services - 1971–1972
  • Executive Director, Hillsborough Association for Retarded Citizens - 1973–1975
  • State Representative, District 69 representing Tampa - 1974–1982
  • Private law practice, lobbying and consulting - 1979–1999
    • Partner - Sheldon, Daly and McGowan, Tampa
    • Of Counsel – Levin, Freedman, Hirsch & Levinson in Tampa and Tallahassee
    • Sheldon & Cusick Associates, Consulting and Lobbying
  • Deputy Attorney General for Central Florida - 1999–2002
  • Private law practice, Stiles, Taylor, Grace - 2002–2003
  • Associate Dean for Students and Alumni Affairs, St. Thomas University Law School, Miami Gardens, FL - 2003–2009
  • Florida Department of Children and Families - 2007–2010
    • Assistant Secretary for Operations - 2007–2009
    • Secretary - 2008–2010; appointed by Governor Charlie Crist
  • Acting Assistant Secretary, Agency for Children and Families, US Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. - 2011–2013
Regarding his time in Washington, Sheldon’s website says:
At the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), George championed the cause of early childhood development among low-income families, worked to expand the use of trauma informed care and practices in the foster care system, pushed for better prescribing and monitoring practices within the foster care system for the use of psychotropic medications, and led HHS’s efforts in the fight against human trafficking, focusing on the enhancement of survivor services.
As Secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families, he co-chaired the State’s Task Force on Human Trafficking along with the head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and previously co-chaired the Federal Victim Services Strategic Planning Committee. In addition, the campaign website says:
George oversaw the State’s child welfare programs, fostering a 36 percent reduction in children in out-of-home care, and integrating mental health, substance abuse and domestic violence services throughout the Department. While at DCF, the agency achieved the highest rate of adoptions among foster children during each of the three years of his tenure. Moreover, as DCF Secretary he led the effort to reduce Florida’s food stamp error rate from among the highest in the nation to the lowest for three consecutive years. Even Governor Scott’s transition team referred to the Department of Children and Families as the best run State agency at the time.
Earlier this month, supporters of Sheldon’s challenger Perry Thurston filed a lawsuit “that sought to eliminate Sheldon from the … ballot [due to] a technicality involving exactly where he lived,” according to the Miami Herald. A Leon county circuit judge ruled Friday in Sheldon’s favor. An attorney for the plaintiffs said he will likely appeal. Stay tuned.
Several other items of note came to light in my web research:
  • On August 11, Sheldon issued a press release urging the Obama Administration to halt seismic testing off the Atlantic Coast.
  • On July 22, he called on the Public Service Commission to reject power companies’ requests to reduce energy conservation.
  • On July 1, he condemned Attorney General Bondi’s position in the Hobby Lobby case. Bondi had said, “Family-owned corporations such as Hobby Lobby have the right to run their businesses on religious principles, and the Affordable Care Act regulations violated their rights.”
  • Sheldon supports gay marriage. On May 30, he called Bondi’s motion to dismiss a legal challenge to Florida’s gay marriage ban “indefensible,” saying it “flies in the face of recent court decisions.”
  • Sheldon supports the proposed Amendment 2 to Florida’s Constitution regarding medical marijuana. On January 27, he said, “By legalizing a medicinal cannabis alternative, we provide … patients with an option that is less harmful, less expensive, and less subject to widespread abuse. We need to quit devoting government resources to meddling in the lives of people who are suffering and focus our resources on making life better and more productive for the citizens of Florida.”


Perry Thurston

Perry Thurston
Perry Thurston is an attorney, legislator and community activist. He received his B.A. in Finance from Morehouse College (1982) and his J.D. from the University of Miami School of Law (1987).

Thurston, being younger, has fewer years of experience on his professional resume:
  • Banking industry - 1982–1984
  • Assistant Public Defender, Broward County Public Defender’s Office - 1988–1992
  • Private law practice - 1992-present
  • State Representative, District 93 representing Fort Lauderdale and Central Broward County - 2006–2012
    • Democratic Ranking Member, Finance and Tax Council and Criminal & Civil Justice Council - 2008–2010
    • Democratic Ranking Member for Reapportionment - 2010–2012
  • State Representatives, District 94 representing parts of Broward County - 2012–2014
    • House Minority Leader - 2012–2014. In that capacity he played a critical role in the legislative controvery over Medicaid expansion. When the legislative session ended without a decision, Thurston and other Democrats unsuccessfully urged Governor Scott to call a special session to resolve the issue.
Regarding his time in Tallahassee, Thurston’s website says he:
… was a leading proponent for the restoration of civil rights legislation. He has held several workshops assisting ex-felons navigate through the restoration process. He has lead voters’ registration initiatives and conducted economic empowerment workshops for local businesses. He has also spearheaded the resurgence of youth baseball within Broward County’s African American community.
His website highlights his position on issues of importance to Democrats, including:
Education - Educating our children to compete in the diverse global economy will create a bridge for millions to enter the middle class. 
Jobs and the economy - We are committed to preserving and expanding the middle class by creating well-paying jobs, by strengthening demand for all that Florida has to offer, and by creating an educated, skilled, and productive workforce. 
Health Care - Democrats believe affordable, high quality health care is part of the American promise, that Americans should have the security that comes with good health care, and that no one should go broke because they get sick. 
Immigration - Florida Democrats support comprehensive immigration reform to secure our economic future and allow Dreamers and immigrants to step out of the shadows. 
Women and Families - Women’s rights are civil rights, and women’s issues are economic issues. Democrats are fighting for equal pay, an end to gender discrimination, and an economy that rewards the hard work of all Floridians. 
Voting Rights - Democrats are working to reform the broken elections system, and will never stop fighting the voter suppression tactics that deny honest citizens the right to vote. 
Civil Rights - Democrats are committed to standing up for those who continue to be denied the most basic civil rights, including marriage. For too many Floridians, the ideals outlined in the Constitution are still far from a reality. 
Accountability in Government - Democrats believe that changing politics in Tallahassee means ensuring that government is ethical, transparent, and responsive to the needs of the people.
In addition to Thurston’s involvement in the challenge to Sheldon’s residency, these other items of note came to light in my web research:
  • Thurston, too, has had problems with his residency.
  • Thurston, as State Representative and House Minority Leader, voted during the Legislature’s special session against SB 2-A “Establishing the Congressional Districts of the State,saying he would like to see the court draw its own map or give the task to an independent body.
  • He was one of 109 Representatives who voted for HR 3A - “Support for the State of Israel” and one of 105 who voted for HR 5A - “Human Trafficking/Abduction of Nigerian Girls.”
  • Thurston, like Sheldon, criticized Pam Bondi for her lawsuit seeking to overturn Florida’s same-sex marriage ban.
  • His position on Amendment 2 Medical Marijuana is more nuanced than Sheldon’s: “I think the public deserves an opportunity to vote on the issue of legalizing marijuana for medical use. . I happen to think the public would be much better served by changing the law to allow law enforcement to concentrate on violent criminals [i.e. rather than amending the Constitution?] … The prescription of medical cannabis should be a matter decided between doctors and patients.”
  • Thurton’s campaign created a website last month ( highlighting what his campaign manager said are Pam Bondi’s top six bungles.
  • His voting record in the 2014 Florida Legislature includes a vote FOR in-state tuition for undocument immigrants; AGAINST expansion of school vouchers; AGAINST authorizing certain individuals to carry concealed firearms on school property; AGAINST authorizing local school boards to choose school textbooks; AGAINST a bill that prohibits insurance increasese for gun owners.


  • The Sun Sentinel
    “because he could bring passion — something both candidates rarely show — to a needed fight against one of Bondi’s worst actions,” i.e. her support for Rick Scott’s reversal of Charlie Crist’s Cabinet’s 2007 vote to restore the rights of nonviolent felons upon completion of their sentences.
  • Rick Kriseman, Mayor of St. Petersburg
  • Kendrick Meek, former U.S. Representative and nominee for U.S. Senate in 2010


Both candidates are well-qualified, though each would bring different experiences to the Cabinet and the responsibilities of Attorney General. While both have experience as attorneys in private practice, Sheldon has broader legislative and administrative experience, whereas Thurston’s experience is limited to the Florida House.

The polls give Sheldon a slight edge over Thurston, but not enough to base a decision on.

Neither candidate has taken shots at the other from what I could find, other than Thurston’s hypocritical challenge to Sheldon’s residency.

This is a really tough choice. Upon reflection, because of his breadth of experience, his interest in children and families, and the fact that he received many more endorsements than Thurston did, I will vote for George Sheldon for Attorney General.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Meet the Candidates: County Judge

We Collier County voters have the opportunity to vote for one of two candidates for County Judge this month: Sal Bazaz or Rob Crown.

Sal Bazaz 

Sal Bazaz
Sal Bazaz has been practicing law in Naples (Sal Bazaz PA Attorney at Law) since 2003, and currently specializes in criminal defense law. His campaign slogan is “Collier County, You’ve Got Bazaz!”

Bazaz lives in Naples with his wife Christina and three children, ages 9, 7 and 5.

On his campaign Facebook Page, Bazaz says, “As an attorney I have seen many instances where the judicial system has failed to hear the voices of those they were to protect. Instead of just advocating the right position, I want, as judge, to be able to implement it.”

His campaign website, Facebook Page, and LinkedIn presence make appropriate use of social media. His Twitter feed @SalBazaz is inactive.

Educational Background

  • JD - Law / St. John’s University School of Law, Queens, NY (2001)
  • BA - Political Science / St. John’s University, Queens, NY (1998)

Professional Experience

  • Sal Bazaz PA Attorney at Law (2003 - present) - Specializes in criminal law services
  • New York and Florida Prosecturor’s Office / Prosecutor (1997 - 2003) - Prosecuted misdemeanors, felonies and violations of probation, sex crimes, theft charges, violent crimes, drug charges and traffic offenses
  • Office of the State Attorney, 20th Judicial Circuit - Florida / Assistant State Attorney (2002 - 2003)


  • Successfully passed the NY, NJ and FL Bar Exams

Campaign Finance

Bazaz raised $7,363 in monetary contributions and no in-kind contributions, and spent $6,633 through 8/8/14. In addition to personal contributions totalling $1,500, his largest contributions to-date were:
  • $2,000 - Paul Zangrillo, Naples, on 2/14/14
  • $1,000 - Gulam Bazaz, El Sobrante, CA, on 3/31/14
  • $1,000 - Shirin Bazaz, Austin, TX, on 3/31/14
  • $500 - Salim Bazaz, Naples, on 2/7/14

Robert L. Crown

Robert L. Crown
Robert L. Crown is seeking to retain his position as a Collier County Court Judge. His campaign slogan is “Re-elect Judge Rob Crown.”

Crown and his wife Terry live in Naples. According to his website, Judge Crown is very proud that his four children are the third generation of Crowns to go through the Collier County Public Schools system.

His campaign website and Facebook Page make appropriate use of social media. He has no LinkedIn or Twitter presence.

Educational Background

  • JD - Law / Stetson University College of Law, Gulfport, FL (1995)
  • BS - Business Administration / Loyola University, New Orleans, LA (1992)

Professional Experience

  • Collier County Court / Judge (2006 - present)
  • Office of the State Attorney - Florida / prosecutor (~2000 - 2006)
  • Private practice / attorney (~1996 - 2000)


Judge Crown was appointed to his current seat on the bench in 2006 by then-Governor Jeb Bush. He was chosen from over twenty applicants for one of two newly-created positions, after vetting by the nonpartisan Judicial Nominating Commission.

Judge Crown was endorsed by the Naples Daily News on August 5. According to the paper:
It’s not often that a sitting judge draws an election challenge. Typically when they do, the opponent has an objection to make regarding the judge’s conduct. That’s not the case here. Even Crown’s opponent in this race can’t point to a reason the judge should be replaced.

Campaign Finance

Crown raised $27,456 in monetary contributions and $90 in-kind contributions, and spent $21,839 through 8/8/14. In addition to a personal contribution of $500, his largest contributions to-date were:
  • $1,000 - Greg Boll, Naples, on 5/2/14
  • $1,000 - Ted L. Hollander & Assoc., PA, Ft. Myers, on 5/12/14
  • $1,000 - Laird A. Lile, P.A., Naples, on 7/28/14
In addition, Crown had eleven $500 contributions and over 150 other contributions, mostly from law firms in the Naples area.


Mr. Bazaz doesn’t seem to have made much of an effort with his campaign, and I found no information about him online other than the social media and website presence. In his Naples Daily News editorial board interview he said he loves working as a sole practitioner, but wants to take his years of experience helping people into the court room.

There’s not much available on Judge Crown, either. The Naples Daily News endorsement simply paraphrases what’s on Crown’s own website.

So without more to go on, while both candidates are qualified, I’m most influenced by the fact that Mr. Bazaz hasn’t worked very hard on his campaign. Judge Crown, not taking his incumbency for granted, took the trouble to fundraise, and his contributions indicate broad local support.

For those reasons, I will vote for Robert Crown for County Judge.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

NEWS RELEASE: New Changes to Early Voting, from the Collier Supervisor of Elections

The following news release from the Collier County Supervisor of Elections Office contains important information about EARLY VOTING, which begins Thursday, August 14. Please read and share!
August 12, 2014 
For more information contact:
Trish Robertson
(239) 252-8052 
NEWS RELEASE: New Changes to Early Voting  
Collier County, Fla. - August 12, 2014: Collier County voters will see some changes during Early Voting this year including a new Early Voting location at the North Collier Regional Park off of Livingston Road. 
Since the 2013 Summer Legislative Session, Supervisors have been given more flexibility with Early Voting days, hours and locations. For the Primary Election, Collier voters will have 10 eight-hour days to cast their ballot at any of the eight locations across the county:
  • Everglades City Hall – 102 Copeland Avenue N, Everglades City 
  • Golden Gate Community Center – 4701 Golden Gate Parkway 
  • Immokalee Community Park – 321 N First Street, Immokalee 
  • Library Headquarters – 2385 Orange Blossom Drive 
  • Marco Island Library – 210 S Heathwood Drive, Marco Island 
  • Norris Center at Cambier Park – 755 8th Avenue S 
  • North Collier Regional Park – 15000 Livingston Road 
  • Supervisor of Elections Office – Government Complex, 3295 Tamiami Trail E
“Our goal with the addition of an Early Voting site at the North Collier Regional Park, is to pull some of the traffic from Library Headquarters on Orange Blossom Drive providing more convenience for our voters who live on the northern end of the county,” – Jennifer J. Edwards, Supervisor of Elections. 
Other Early Voting relocations include a site at Norris Center near Cambier Park, instead of Naples City Hall, Golden Gate Community Center, rather than the Golden Gate Library, and Immokalee Community Park, instead of the Immokalee Library. 
Early Voting begins on Thursday, August 14 and voters can check for wait times, which is updated regularly and provides the exact location of each Early Voting site. 
For more information, contact the Supervisor of Elections Office at (239)252-VOTE.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Guest Post: A Very Important Primary, by Julie Sprague

Julie Sprague is currently serving in her second term on the District School Board of Collier County, having been re-elected without a challenger in 2012. The following article appeared recently in the Collier County Education Association’s Pelican Post. It appears here with Ms. Sprague’s permission.

There is a very important Primary election coming on August 26th that could potentially determine three new School Board members serving our District for the next four years.

When I joined the Board in 2008, the School District had been placed on “Warning” status by the school accrediting organization SACS CASI for two consecutive years and was in jeopardy of losing its accreditation because of Board dysfunction. It was my goal when elected to bring some stability and respect back to the School Board. The present School Board members worked diligently to restore our accreditation to full status and renew the faith from our constituents. This election has the potential to either continue that trend or send us back to a previous time of dysfunction.

There are very clear distinctions between the candidates running for the Board and I ask that you study them carefully and vote for a candidate that clearly supports our traditional Public Schools. You can view how the candidates answered questions regarding our schools in the recent League of Women Voters Forum to help make your choice.

Please go out and exercise your right to vote in this Primary. Sitting idly by and hoping for the best is not an option. Any candidate that receives over 50% of the vote in their District is automatically elected in August. I greatly appreciate the support you gave me in my run for the School Board. I am asking you to give the same support to a current candidate who will understand your views and have the best interest of all of our Collier County students as their central focus. Your vote is a vote of confidence in the teachers and students of Collier County Public Schools.

Please stay tuned for my next researched post - about the two candidates for County Judge - coming soon!

Friday, August 8, 2014

SWFL Citizens Alliance wants control of the School Board

It could happen as soon as this month.

In an email to supporters yesterday titled "Contract with Collier County - AN URGENT CALL TO ACTION in Advance of the August 26, 2014 School Board Election," Doug Lewis, with the support of SWFL Citizens Alliance, wrote,
If, on August 26, we elect candidates from each of the three Districts who have signed the “Contract with Collier County”,  voters will have a Board majority that can return a voice to parents and teachers, protect our students, and improve the quality of our local educational system.
In my opinion, what's in the contract is beside the point.

Candidates for elected office should not commit to ANYTHING in advance. They need the flexibility to consider the facts and circumstances of each decision, with appropriate community input AT THE TIME.

That said, their "Contract with Collier County" contains these points, as summarized in their email:

  • Returning memorization, multiplication tables and phonics to our elementary classrooms. 
  • Moving Board meeting times back from 4 pm to a time that allows working taxpayers to attend.  
  • Establishing protections to ensure that all textbooks (including all newly purchased Common Core District textbooks and materials that will be in our classrooms this year) are factually accurate.  
  • Eliminating the Bring Your Own Device program from our elementary schools.  
  • Authorizing the District to lobby against data mining of our children to protect privacy rights.  [For background on this, see PolitiFact Florida, here.]
  • Fixing the Superintendent’s current contract to give the Board the ability to properly manage and incentivize the Superintendent, etc.

While some of these ideas may be worthy of Board and community discussion, there's no need to require candidates to sign a "contract" or pass a "litmus test" before the election.

We should make our voting decisions based on candidates' values and experiences, not their willingness to sign a "contract" to get this group's endorsement.

The SWFL Citizen's Alliance email goes on to identify the School Board candidates who signed the contract, and those who did not:
District 1: Kelly Lichter and Jacob Winge signed; Kathy Greenawalt did not.
District 3: Erika Donalds and JB Holmes signed; Luis Bernal and Kathy Ryan did not.
District 5: Tom Andler signed; Roy Terry did not.
SWFL Citizen's Alliance has targeted District 5 in particular, noting that "District 5 is the key race for majority control of the Board and voters need to know that Tom Andler was the only candidate in District 5 that signed the Contract with Collier County.”

I support Kathy Greenawalt for District 1, Luis Bernal for District 3, and Roy Terry for District 5. Read why in my post of July 25.

ALL REGISTERED VOTERS in Collier County can vote in this election, in ALL THREE School Board races, regardless of the district they live in. 

Early voting starts next Thursday, August 14. For information about voting and the elections, including early voting dates and sites, go to

There is MUCH AT STAKE in this election. Not only is it important that YOU vote, but it's also important that you help GET OUT THE VOTE.

If you'd like to help me do so, let me know.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Dianne Mayberry-Hatt's Endorsement of School Board Candidates

My friend and colleague Dianne Mayberry-Hatt and I interviewed the School Board candidates together, but independently reached our decisions about our endorsements. The fact that we came to the same conclusions is - we believe - a reflection of our shared values and beliefs. In this post, Dianne shares the rationale for her decisions.

Throughout my career as a teacher, principal and school board member I learned how vital advocacy and community activism are to the well-being of our schools.  This is why in retirement I continue to be involved in education and most recently in the upcoming School Board election.

This particular election cycle has taken on a fervor I’ve not seen before.  With the candidates’ use of technology, their campaign slogans are seemingly everywhere.   Their messages are slick and snazzy, using sound-bites to inform us of platforms.  We even see endorsements and financial contributions to some campaigns by those who don’t live in our community.  It reminds me of a well-organized political campaign.

A historical perspective may illuminate why this troubles me.

The last decade had its tumultuous years when civility and mutual respect were often absent from Collier County School Board proceedings.  The eroding relationship between the Board and administration shook the public confidence in the school system.  

By 2008, the rising public outcry was heard and addressed by Champions for Learning (formerly The Education Foundation of Collier County). They convened a series of 50 small group conversations throughout the county, hosted and led by trained community members who asked the question: “Do we, Collier County citizens, share enough educational values and expectations to lift and empower us and in turn, the school system, to be the best it can be?” As one of the lead facilitators of Connect Now, I witnessed a group of engaged community members, reflecting a range of perspectives, express a resounding "yes" to this question.

The outcome of this project was the Connect Now CommunityStatement, which detailed the community’s aspirational priorities around education and set forth a blueprint for tackling the challenges facing our schools. It was published by the Naples Daily News as a 4-page insert on April 5, 2009. 

The School Board embraced this Community Statement as a guide going forward with their work. In the years that followed, meaningful programs such as community partnerships, strategic planning and STEM initiatives, inspired by Connect Now, were started.  This has been a good beginning for all that still needs to be accomplished.  

As the current School Board campaign got underway, I realized that the newly elected Board members may not be aware of or support the Connect Now Community Statement.  It was then that I had the idea to hold one-on-one conversations with each of the candidates.

The 45-minute conversations I had with each candidate helped me synthesize their detailed CVs (curriculum vitae) into comprehensive portraits of eight very different individuals.  (Candidate Jacob Winge, District 1, did not meet with us.) All this acquired information has been invaluable in determining the best candidates, but there are other factors to consider. Do the best candidates necessarily create the best Board? What really matters to me as a voter is which candidates can work collaboratively with skills, talents and perspectives that are respectful of and complementary to the whole. 

With this history in mind, and the knowledge and insight I gained about the candidates over the past weeks of my research, I’ve made my decisions.

In District 1, I will vote for Kathleen Greenawalt.  She supports the District efforts to-date. She has a clear understanding of the role of the School Board and knows the value of compromise amongst colleagues.  She is a strong advocate for teachers and public schools.

The other candidates in this district
Jacob Winge chose not to meet with us nor did he provide enough information for me to consider him.  

Kelly Lichter is deeply involved in the opening of a charter school.  Having read through the Mason Classical Academy application and attended an informational presentation, I support the concept of charter schools and believe that choice has its place in public schools.  In fact, I dreamed of opening my own school during my career because of frustrations I faced as a teacher. Because of the founder’s passionate commitment and robust leadership, I anticipate that her charter school will succeed.  

However I do not believe that Mrs. Lichter will support the kind of initiatives Connect Now suggested or ones now in the School District's plans for the coming years.  I am still troubled by the challenges that her involvement as President of the Board of Mason Classical Academy charter school could bring to her role as School Board member.  The focus should be on the work of the District, not the potential conflicts of a particular individual, and I don’t believe this issue can go away. 

In District 3, I will vote for Luis Bernal.   He has an extensive history of volunteer efforts on behalf of the District and his child’s school.  His professional experiences as an international development consultant and his credentials in public policy will serve the School Board well.  As a civic leader, he is highly regarded by the business community.  Mr. Bernal’s bilingual, multicultural background offers a voice for the under-represented student population, which is the majority.  Luis Bernal is an outstanding civic leader who has much to offer our community and he will undoubtedly and invaluably be a consensus builder for the Board.

There are 3 other qualified candidates in District 3, each with laudable credentials.

Kathy Ryan has breath and depth to her history as an educator in CCPS and is highly regarded by many for her service to the education community.  

JB Holmes is presently employed by CCPS as an alternative education teacher.  He brings a wealth of business acumen and experience with contract negotiations.

However because there is already one educator sitting on the board, an incumbent running for reelection who is a retired educator, and another educator already endorsed, I believe the Board as  a whole would be better served with different skills and talents.  

Erika Donalds has extraordinary qualifications.  Her well-organized and professionally presented campaign draws supporters beyond Collier County. But running an outstanding campaign does not necessarily make one an ideal School Board member.  I am not convinced that she would work collaboratively on the School Board because of my understanding of her vehemently expressed views and what I perceive to be her ambitions.   Her association with Kelly Lichter, a candidate in District 1, and with the new charter school, Mason Classical Academy, could be problematic, even if it turns out to be just perception.

In District 5, I will vote for Roy Terry.   He has been a teacher, coach, vice principal, central office administrator, high school principal and School Board member during his decades of service to CCPS.  As an incumbent, Mr. Terry wants to maintain stability and continue the progress achieved during his term. He supports college and career-readiness for all students, and while he supports continued attention to the academic needs of all students, he wants more attention focused on students in the upper 25% of achievement.  He understands the challenges of standards and high-stakes testing.  He also supports more decentralized decision-making for principals, and replicating the Champions for Learning’s “Real World Learning Model” (currently in place at Golden Gate High School) in other high schools.  Mr. Terry listens first, considers what he hears, and acts rationally and with clarity, all for the benefit of students.

The other candidate, Dr. Tom Andler, has been a teacher and principal in the Midwest and superintendent in a district of 150 students in North Dakota and most recently a science teacher in CCPS, now retired.  

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Thank you for your patience

Election Day – August 26 – is three weeks from Tuesday.

Based on feedback from readers, there is great interest in my election-related posts. I’ve been asked to write about the candidates for the judgeships (started but not completed), Democratic Party candidates for State Attorney General, and more. I’ve even been offered the opportunity to write a regular column in an online publication.

I’m pleased that there’s so much interest, and will do my best to provide the analysis and insight that has been requested. I’ll be off-line for several days, but will be posting again as soon as possible. For those who are interested and can wait for the posts, I appreciate your patience.