The naming of Collier Schools Superintendent Kamela Patton as Superintendent of the Year by the Florida Consortium of Education Foundations topped the list of local news for November!
Patton was honored for her dedication to Future Ready Collier, an association of more than 50 organizations that try to help prepare children for kindergarten and high school students for college and careers.
So in this post, I’ll lead with news about our Collier County Public Schools, followed by news of our Collier County and Naples City government. Each of these bodies is overseen by people we elect, so awareness of the issues and decisions being made is important to be informed voters.
|CCPS’ Dr. Kamela Patton
Superintendent of the Year
Top stories – Collier Collier Public Schools
- Collier schools’ Kamela Patton named Florida’s superintendent of the year. Naples Daily News
- Collier School Board votes to join lawsuit over new state law. The board voted 3–2 to intervene in the suit to fight the state on House Bill 7069 solely on the creation of Schools of Hope and the issue of charter school contracts. Naples Daily News
- Related Commentary: Collier County School Board makes the wrong call. By state Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Naples in Naples Daily News
- Collier residents ask CCPS to reconsider school on MLK Day. School Board members Stephanie Lucarelli, Roy Terry, Erick Carter and Kelly Lichter said they would be willing to revisit the issue at the December meeting. Naples Daily News
- Related Editorial: Attending school on holiday an unfortunate decision. An unfortunate decision, however, isn’t the same as an unwarranted one. Naples Daily News
- Collier School Board keeps Terry as chairman, elects Lucarelli as vice chair. Both elections were by 3–2 votes. Naples Daily News
- Related Editorial Kick: Collier School Board members should explain reason for ceasing board chair rotational pattern. Naples Daily News
- Why the Jewish community is upset over Collier’s proposed 2019–20 school calendar. In the schedule’s current form, the district plans school (but no testing) during Rosh Hashanah, and days off for Yom Kippur, Good Friday and the Monday after Easter. NBC–2.com
- Related: Community input on draft 2019–20 academic calendar can be submitted until 6:00 p.m. on December 22, 2017. Review the proposed calendar and provide input here.
- LGBTQ allies call on Collier schools to change policies. While CCPS psychologist Jana Csenger appreciates that the district has included students of all sexual orientations in its anti-discrimination policies, she finds its “case by case” policy for transgender students problematic. Naples Daily News
Top stories – County government
As we’ve been reading about in prior Months-in-Review, the Board of County Commissioners has several decisions to make in the coming months regarding how to manage the county’s growth, redevelopment, and aging infrastructure, as well as how to pay for it all.
A Naples Daily News editorial titled Post-recession and now after Irma, something has to give summarized the challenges this way:
Clogged Immokalee Road makes a parallel Vanderbilt Beach Road extension sensible; that’s $90 million as a start. Nearly a dozen bridges built circa 1960 are crumbling. The taxpayer-supported county jail is the No. 1 mental health holding center. Tens of millions of dollars for promised parks east of Naples don’t have a funding source. Medical device manufacturer Arthrex chose South Carolina for a 1,000-job expansion; it didn’t have an adequate, trained workforce here. Housing is too expensive for young professionals.
All that was true before Irma highlighted inadequacies of our sewage lift stations and drainage.
Here are several November articles about some of the challenges:
- Editorial: Housing needs quicker solution than referendum. Property-oriented solutions will more quickly and effectively address our escalating housing problem than more tax revenue. Naples Daily News
- Editorial: Sugden Park decision is next stop in redevelopment road. Is putting an 80-foot performing arts center building in “a passive park” the right decision? Naples Daily News
- Study: Collier jail renovations to house drug users and mentally ill could cost millions according to a new master plan and study of long-term needs for the jail. Naples Daily News
- Immokalee cemetery continues to flood. While some question why the property has been allowed to continue to flood, others have asked why county staff has let the property fall into disrepair in the first place. Immokalee Bulletin
These articles discuss some of the competing arguments that make the “how to pay for it all” decision so difficult:
- Column: Tax season in November? Sales tax option brings issues to the forefront. A presentation to the BCC identifies $732 million in unfunded road, bridge, stormwater, jail and other projects in the coming years. By Brent Batten, Naples Daily News
- Commentary: Is it time for Collier County to deal with backlogged projects? The Greater Naples Chamber suggests funding from a temporary boost in the sales tax. The Collier County Presidents Council supports this plan. Commentary by Paul Feuer and Dave Trecker, Collier County Presidents Council via Naples Daily News
- Editorial: Conservation Collier decision should stand on its own. If commissioners opt for a sales tax referendum, we’d urge it go to voters in 2018 without Conservation Collier attached. Naples Daily News
- Collier County sales tax likely for ballot, but questions remain on spending it. A funding source from sales taxes wouldn’t just provide a buffer for when property taxes dip. It would keep the burden of paying for some of the initiatives from falling entirely on property owners. Naples Daily News
In addition to planning for the future, the more immediate county government business continued:
- Editorial Kudo: Commissioners approve the county’s utility taking over water and sewer service to Golden Gate. Kudos to Commissioner Burt Saunders, who led the charge – as he promised in his 2016 campaign. Naples Daily News
- Editorial: Strive to de-escalate Marco, Collier ambulance conflict. We worry about the potential of a lawsuit that could strain city relationships with county government, … not to mention the expense for both governments that a legal battle would create at a time Irma damages and response have added still-mounting expenses. Naples Daily News
- County lengthens medical marijuana ban for another six months as local commissioners try to wait for state lawmakers to change the rules surrounding them. Naples Daily News
- Commissioners approve funding for business accelerators but continue to raise concerns. The money will come with more strings attached — namely more stringent reporting requirements to the county on the centers’ finances and accomplishments. Naples Daily News
- Column: Clearing confusion over new beach parking, bus policies. Nonresidents, who previously were able to buy annual beach passes for $50, are no longer able to do so. By Tim Aten, Naples Daily News
- County will provide free trolley to North Naples beaches. Starting December 29, the trolley will circle between Vanderbilt Beach and Delnor-Wiggins State Park, across Immokalee Road, down U.S. 41, and stop near Mercato before cutting back to the beaches. Naples Daily News
- Crews get go-ahead to start work to redo Doctors Pass jetty, fix beach erosion hot spot. Earth Tech has four months to finish the $2 million job. Naples Daily News
- Column: Mystery concert expected to bring fun to Naples, but tourists? Commissioner Burt Saunders wants a future Commission discussion about the use of tourist tax revenue. By Brent Batten, Naples Daily News
Our elected officials are also responsible for ensuring that the Hurricane Irma cleanup is completed as quickly as possible, that what should be done differently next time is identified, and that new procedures are put in place. In November’s news:
- County nears completion of first sweep of Hurricane Irma debris removal. The County has now spent or set aside more than $80 million for the task. In the coming days and weeks, the focus will turn to cleaning swales and drainage ditches, and getting into the County’s roughly 440 gated communities. Naples Daily News
- Consultant: Collier shelter preparations for Hurricane Irma evacuees fell short. The county must have a better assessment of the potential demand for shelter during an evacuation, especially among people with special needs. And it needs a better strategy to prepare certain shelters with generators and other supplies, according to the report. Naples Daily News
What a month! The number of challenging issues our elected county officials are dealing with on our behalf is almost overwhelming. November’s news provides good examples of the role of county government in our lives, and the importance of letting our voices be heard on decisions being made.
Meanwhile, in Naples City government …
- Naples council members give final OK to big pay raises for themselves. Mayor Bill Barnett, Councilman Reg Buxton and Councilwoman Michelle McLeod — all elected in 2016 — voted for the salary package and will begin benefiting from it when it takes effect after the Feb. 6 city election. Naples Daily News
- Naples PAC lobbies for question on local ethics commission. An amendment to the Naples charter would give the proposed five-member volunteer ethics board and Office of Ethics and Government Integrity the power to investigate complaints against local officials and oversee sweeping changes to Naples ethics laws. Naples Daily News
- Two more candidates file for Naples City Council race. The candidacies of Gary Price, a councilman from 2005–14, and Terry Hutchison, a Naples 7-Eleven franchise owner, add new competition for February’s election, which already had the potential for large turnover on the seven-member council. Naples Daily News
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Your input is needed on a community needs study!
Whether you are a seasonal or year-round Collier resident, the Community Foundation of Collier County would like your help to determine Collier County’s challenges. You are invited to participate by answering questions on a confidential survey being conducted by the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation.
Catch up anytime
Finally, in case you missed them, here are links to my three most recent posts:
- November 2017 Month in Review – State News
- October 2017 Month in Review – Local News
- October 2017 Month in Review – State News
You can find all past Sparker’s Soapbox posts, dating back to 2010, in the Blog Archive at www.sparkers-soapbox.com.
Thank you for your interest in being an informed Collier County voter.