May was a busy month for our elected officials. At month-end, the School Board was sued by three parents and the Florida Citizens Alliance over its textbook selections. Earlier in the month, the Board heard public comments in support of a local charter school and began considering next year’s budget.
The County Commission discussed major road and building projects, whether to purchase a significant parcel of land, and whether to raise the tourist tax. Naples City Council is debating the ethics of one of its members, and it too, has a major building project to consider.
The Florida Legislature completed its 2017 session, with House and Senate leaders criticized for both what they did and how they did it. With term-limits triggered next year, races to succeed the Governor and the three Cabinet members got underway.
With all that is happening, how are busy Collier voters, many who are out of town for the summer, to keep up?
This post is my attempt to help. It’s the first in what could become a new series called Sparker’s Soapbox Month in Review. It was inspired by a narrowly-focused daily email I receive about one small aspect of national news. By reading it and some of the news stories it references, I feel well informed on its topic. I wondered if I could do something similar that is narrowly focused on our local and state elected officials and the issues and decisions they face.
Throughout May, I clipped articles and web posts about the Collier County School Board and District, the Board of Collier County Commissioners, the Naples City Council, the Florida Governor and Legislature, and upcoming state and local elections. I also clipped Naples Daily News editorials that provided meaningful relevant commentary. In the last days of the month, I pared down and organized what I’d collected. My goal was to publish a summary of top stories for Collier voters on the first of June.
I certainly can’t guarantee I found everything that is relevant, but I hope what I did find is informative.
With that — here’s Sparker’s Soapbox Month in Review for May 2017.
Top stories: Collier County Public Schools
- Three parents and Florida Citizens Alliance sue the Collier County School Board over textbooks slated for public school classrooms next fall. The suit calls for an “emergency injunction” on the books and the School Board’s selection process for violating state transparency laws and education standards. (Naples Daily News 05/31/17)
- Florida Citizens Alliance Objections to Textbooks to be Heard at Special School Board Meeting June 1st. Florida Citizens Alliance is a “self-professed constitutionalism group” whose issues are the Second Amendment and local control of public education. (Sparker’s Soapbox 5/25/17)
- CCPS critics believe textbook review committees were stacked to promote progressive ideas in history, economics and the law. School officials say the committees reflect who applied and that neither party affiliation nor political leanings were considered when selecting members. (Brent Batten, Naples Daily News 5/22/17)
- Florida’s Auditor General calls Collier schools ‘best in state’ on internal controls and FEFP compliance. The senior lead auditor who conducted the District’s last three audits routinely uses the District’s processes and procedures as the model when conducting statewide training. (Kamela Patton, Guest Commentary, Naples Daily News 5/14/17)
- Better-than-budgeted FY17 results expected to add $3.5 million to District reserves. The preliminary FY18 budget anticipates revenue and additional cost savings to more than cover higher costs, making staff salary increases a possibility. (CCPS Budget Presentation 5/20/17)
- Thirteen Collier schools will have new principals in the fall. The retirement of Deputy Superintendent David Stump provides an opportunity to restructure the District leadership team to support new principals and offer more ongoing professional development. (CCPS Press Release 5/16/17; Naples Daily News 5/23/17)
- The School Board should hire an internal audit firm to perform a risk assessment and develop a longer-term internal audit plan. (Erika Donalds, Guest Commentary, Naples Daily News 5/20/17)
- A large crowd of Mason Classical Academy supporters turned out for the May 9 School Board meeting. They urged the Board to renew its charter, which expires June 30, in over an hour of public comments before the business portion of the meeting. (Video-on-Demand 5/9/17)
Top stories: Board of Collier County Commissioners
- Decision on $60 – $80 million sports complex likely at June County Commission meeting. The project seems to have support from a majority of commissioners, but how it will be funded is more controversial. (Naples Daily News 5/3/17; Naples Herald 5/24/17)
- County resumes long-delayed plans to extend Vanderbilt Beach Road. It will need to buy rights-of-way from dozens of homeowners in the six to eight miles between where the road ends now, just east of Collier Boulevard, and the project’s end. Expected completion in 2023, at a cost of about $60 million. (Naples Daily News 5/5/17)
- Collier Commission votes 4-1 to end temporary ban on medical marijuana dispensaries October 10. Commissioner Bill McDaniel dissented, saying the moratorium should end immediately. Proposed regulations will be vetted during public meetings this summer. (Naples Daily News 5/9/17)
- County to increase spending on wildfire prevention after recent fires in Golden Gate Estates put it “one spark away from losing 900 structures and 500 homes in a densely populated area.” (Naples Daily News 5/13/17)
- An 18-story, 300-unit mixed use project with a 75-slip marina proposed near Vanderbilt Beach in North Naples. It would replace several buildings, most more than 30 years old, and require a rezoning and growth plan amendment. (Naples Daily News 5/16/17; Naples Daily News 5/18/17)
- County loses lawsuit against CVS and landlord over eminent domain; commissioners to consider appeal. A win would let the County recoup some of the $6.5 million it paid CVS and its landlord for taking away 11 parking spaces to widen a road, and could drastically reduce the cost to taxpayers of eminent domain for years to come. (Naples Daily News 5/22/17; Brent Batten, Naples Daily News 5/29/17)
- HHH Ranch owners offer Collier County 1,010 acres in exchange for mining proceeds. The ranch is three miles east of Collier Boulevard and north of I-75/Alligator Alley. Commissioners will get two appraisals of the property as a first step in considering the proposal. (Naples Daily News 5/25/17)
- Lawyers ditch Everglades City’s troubles with water, sewage plants, citing “irreconcilable differences” with city leaders. Will the County have to take over? and at what cost? (Naples Daily News 5/26/17)
- County to take back Goodland Drive from the City of Marco Island, but repairs still years away. The road floods substantially during the rainy season and has been a public safety concern for years. Construction could begin in 2020, but a budget for it has not yet been approved. (Naples Daily News 5/28/17)
- Collier officials soon to decide on room tax, beach aid, advertising, sports complex. On June 13, Commissioners will revisit how they spend the roughly $20 million the county collects every year from a sales tax on overnight stays. (Naples Daily News 5/30/17)
Top stories: Naples City Council
- Councilwoman Linda Penniman and City Attorney differ on development disclosure rules. Penniman requested the disclosures after the Naples Daily News reported on a potential conflict of interest involving Councilman Sam Saad’s relationship with a real estate investment group. (Naples Daily News 5/11/17)
- Collier NAACP files an ethics complaint against Councilman Saad, saying he violated Florida Bar rules when he voted to approve a development project in the City’s River Park neighborhood. (Naples Daily News 5/24/17)
- Naples design board OKs plan for 118-room hotel at Third Street Plaza. The project would replace the >25-year-old plaza often described as an eyesore. It requires final approval by the Naples City Council. (Naples Daily News 5/24/17)
Top stories: State Government
- Recapping Florida’s 2017 Legislative Session – Part 1 (Sparker’s Soapbox 5/15/17)
- Recapping Florida’s 2017 Legislative Session – Part 2 (Sparker’s Soapbox 5/22/17)
- Gov. Scott signs legislation aimed at building reservoir that should eventually help ease freshwater discharges to the Caloosahatchee River. (News-Press 5/12/17)
- Food money for low-income seniors in Lee, Collier, Charlotte counties back in budget, thanks to Naples Sen. Kathleen Passidomo’s “last-minute maneuvering.” (News-Press 5/15/17)
- Passidomo, Reps. Byron Donalds and Bob Rommel reflect on 2017 legislative session. (Naples Daily News 5/10/17; WGCU.org 5/18/17)
- Legislative budget includes $1.2 million for Collier’s business accelerators, thanks to “last-minute push” by Passidomo, Donalds and Rommel. (Naples Daily News 5/16/17)
- Byron Donalds among four freshmen House Republicans running to be Speaker in 2022. (Politico 5/22/17)
Top stories: 2018 state elections
- Florida governor’s race well underway: Already 18 candidates for 2018. (Palm Beach Post 5/28/17)
- The biggest financial backers to-date of candidates running for governor in 2018. (Tampa Bay Times 5/18/17)
Top Naples Daily News Editorials
- ‘Local control’ may be House without home. The House voted 68-48 for House Bill 843 by Naples state Reps. Byron Donalds and Bob Rommel. Thankfully the misguided bill didn’t pass. (Naples Daily News 5/4/17)
- A visionary approach to future fire danger. Editorial Board applauds Collier government leadership for taking a three-point approach toward addressing the high fire danger that inevitably will return. (Naples Daily News 5/10/17)
- Goodland Drive, ATV Park: numbers may not add up on beneficial deals. When government agencies fail to strike a deal, the cost of that failure affects everyday citizens who see promises broken by public officials or people’s well-being caught up in a political tug-of-war. (Naples Daily News 5/11/17)
- Two state formulas need revision to help replenish Florida beaches. The $50 million the Legislature and Gov. Scott agreed to spend for beach projects in the 2017-18 state budget isn’t nearly enough to address the state’s extreme coastal erosion problem. (Naples Daily News 5/17/17)
- There’s no emergency to merge Collier fire districts with ambulance service. The desirable goal is a patient who has received thoughtful, progressive care — not rushed, emergency treatment. This is a case where it’s good to be waiting for the ambulance. (Naples Daily News 5/18/17)
I welcome your feedback and suggestions.