Tuesday, January 30, 2018

State News in Review - January 2018

The Florida Legislature convened its 2018 session on January 9th, and much of this month’s state news concerned proposed bills and budget priorities. Since most proposals won’t make it to the finish line and the budget won’t be finalized until March, this month’s post focuses on non-legislative news Collier voters should be aware of.

But first, an update on the state of play regarding the candidates running for the offices that will be on our ballots this year! Primary elections will be on August 28; the General Election will be on November 6.

As a reminder, Florida is a closed primary state where only registered members of a party may vote in that party’s primary. I have been writing since 2011 about my “unorthodox suggestion” when it comes to party affiliation. See my posts herehere and, most recently, here. I continue to feel as I did then, and I hope you will consider it. Check and/or change your party affiliation with the Supervisor of Elections here.

U.S. Senate

Democrat Bill Nelson is seeking re-election to his fourth term as one of our U.S. senators. Gov. Rick Scott is widely expected to challenge him and if he does, the race is expected to be close. But “the increasingly grim outlook facing Republicans in the midterms has raised new questions about his political future,” as Scott faces GOP headwinds ahead of a potential Senate bid. The Hill


Collier County voters live in Congressional District 19 or 25. Find your District here.

In District 19, which includes western Collier County, Republican Francis Rooney is seeking a second term, and he is currently unchallenged. There won’t be a Republican primary unless another Republican files to run in the coming months. Democrats David Holden and Todd James Truax will face off in August.

In District 25, Republican Mario Diaz-Balart is seeking a ninth term. To-date, he has just one challenger, Democrat Alina Valdes. Unless that changes, there will be no primaries and the two will face off in a general election in November.


Rick Scott is term-limited so the governor’s race is wide-open.

The leading Republican candidate is Florida’s current, term-limited Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, but Congressman Ron DeSantis is rising in the polls since receiving endorsements from Donald Trump and Sean Hannity. Fifty percent of likely voters are undecided, according to a recent Florida Chamber poll.
Democratic frontrunners are former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. Sixty-four percent are undecided. Florida Chamber
August primary elections will decide the Republican and Democrat who will face off in November.

State Cabinet

Unlike the federal government, where the President appoints his Cabinet, Florida’s three Cabinet members — Attorney General, Commissioner of Agriculture and Chief Financial Officer — are independently elected. In recent news:

State Senate

Incumbent Republican Sen. Kathleen Passidomo is so far without a challenger to represent District 28, which includes all of Collier County. In 2016, Passidomo beat Matt Hudson in a Republican primary that was closed by the “write-in loophole.” There were no Democrat challengers.

State House

Collier County voters live in Florida House District 80, 106 or 105. Find your District here.

In District 80, Republican Byron Donalds is running for a second term. To-date, he has one challenger running with no party affiliation (NPA).

In District 106, Republican Bob Rommel is also running for a second term. To-date, he is challenged by Democrat Sara McFadden and an NPA.

In District 105, Carlos Trujillo is term-limited, so that seat is wide-open. To-date, Democrat Javier Estevez and Republicans David Rivera (who is being sued by the FEC) and Ana Maria Rodriguez have filed to run for the seat.

And now, some state news of note:

The 2017-18 Constitution Revision Commission

This month, CRC committees have been meeting to determine which proposed constitutional amendments to the Florida Constitution to put forward to the full Commission for a vote. The CRC’s work must be completed by May 10, after which I’ll share which amendments they have placed on our November ballot. My November and December 2017 posts explained the role of this important and powerful group that only meets every twenty years.

Collier School Board and CRC member Erika Donalds was mentioned several times in a Politico Florida article this month titled Secret talks among CRC members ‘just part of the process,' says Commissioner. The article described the CRC Education Committee’s failure to follow open meetings requirements that almost every commission in the state must meet. According to Donalds, “It’s just like the Legislature; we’re operating in a very similar manner.” But “It’s stunning they’re doing it … without even answering questions or providing any basis in law for (it),” said the First Amendment Foundation’s Barbara Petersen.


The environment

In the courts

Other state news

In my next post, I’ll report on January’s top stories in local government.


Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can read Sparker’s Soapbox online at www.sparkers-soapbox.com or subscribe to posts by email at tinyurl.com/subscribe-to-soapbox.

News happens daily! Stay current with Sparker’s Soapbox on Facebook at fb.me/sparkers.soapbox or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox. 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Get ready to vote for Naples City Council

February 6, 2018
Terry Hutchison, Mitchell Norgart, Linda Penniman and Gary Price are vying for three seats in the February 6, 2018, Naples City Council election. The nonpartisan, at-large election is open to registered voters who live in the City. For election logistics, click here. For City boundaries, click here.

In this post, I’ll share what I learned about the candidates through online research, and close with how I would vote if I were a City resident.

Terry Hutchison

Mr. Hutchison’s campaign slogan is “Principled and practical leadership. Common sense for our City, respect for our residents.” His priorities are “sound financial stewardship, management of growth for the benefit of our residents, protection of our City's environment, and improvements in our City's ethics policy." His website is at www.hutchisonnaples.com.

A self-described self-made, successful businessman from humble beginnings, Hutchison was born to a single mother in Indiana who was forced to give him up for adoption when he was five years old. He was adopted by “a loving and devout family who instilled in him the values of integrity, loyalty, and perseverance.”

He attended Seminole State College in Oklahoma and initially worked in the petroleum industry before an industry shift in the 1980s led him eventually to being recruited into a management and marketing role with 7-Eleven.

In 2008, 7-Eleven sent Hutchison to southwest Florida to turn around what was an underperforming district.  In two years, he writes, he “revitalized the market in a first-ever transition from corporate-owned stores to franchise-owned stores.” And “the initiative resulted in 7-Eleven rising to the No. 3 spot in Entrepreneur Magazine's 31st Annual Franchise 500 and honoring Terry with its highest honor: Market Manager of the Year.”

In 2012, Hutchison, his wife Sherri and their two children moved to Naples and purchased a home in the Lake Park community. Now a 7-Eleven franchisee himself, he owns two stores in Naples, including the one at US Hwy 41 and Central Avenue. In 2015, he and other business owners opposed the two-laning of Central Avenue. He joined the Board of the Lake Park Neighborhood Association in 2017 and serves as its President.

Hutchison ran unsuccessfully for Naples City Council in 2016, coming in fifth out of six candidates for the three seats on the ballot. In a 2016 Naples Daily News Editorial Board interview, he said he did not support a proposed parking garage for Fifth Avenue, and that the City Dock should be a “self-funding asset.” In a 2017 Naples Daily News article about his current run for City Council, he said he “would have sided with the people of River Park” in opposing the 7-Eleven project near that low-income neighborhood. And he said that in the wake of Hurricane Irma, Council must consider reining in its capital spending on large projects such as the $20 million Baker Park. “I’m not convinced we’re where we need to be financially to handle that,” he said.

A search of Collier County court records revealed a recent suit against Hutchison by Physicians Regional Medical Center for a past-due amount of $5100. According to court documents, Hutchison promptly responded that he had tried and will try again to set up a “reasonable payment schedule.”

A search of Florida Division of Corporation records revealed Hutchison’s connection to two 7-Elevens and the Lake Park Neighborhood Association, for which he is the registered agent.

Hutchison has endorsements from City Council member Doug Finlay and community leaders Dolph von Arx, John Lehmann, Wynn Phillips, Linda Black, Bill Lutz, and the Board of Directors of the Old Naples Association.

Mitchell Norgart

Mr. Norgart’s campaign platform revolves around the health, safety, and welfare of city residents. He says he will focus on four key issues: sustainability, wise municipal planning, parking and traffic management, and continued cooperation between the City and County.

Norgart has a B.S. Psychology from the University of South Florida and has been a Naples resident for 40 years. He was appointed to the City’s design review board in June 2016 and says he wants to “help maintain its small town feel.” His campaign website is at www.mitchnorgart.com and his Facebook page is here.

Norgart has been a licensed real estate broker in Florida since 1997, although the status of his license is “current/inactive” and his campaign website makes no reference to his being a realtor. According to a Gulf Coast Properties webpage, Norgart’s “career has spanned from executive positions with the Ritz-Carlton Hotels to managing new home sales at Collier's Reserve Country Club. He also managed his own, in-town boutique real estate brokerage firm specializing in 'west of 41' luxury residential construction, sales and listings.”

A County court records search revealed several lawsuits alleging Norgart’s failure to meet financial obligations. They include a mortgage foreclosure, tens of thousands of dollars in past-due credit card debt, a defaulted boat loan, and default on a lease at the location of the Naples on the Run retail store. For more on these matters, read Naples City Council candidate Mitch Norgart says bad economy led to his money problems published January 21, 2018, in the Naples Daily News.

Linda Penniman

Ms. Penniman was first elected to the Naples City Council in 2014 and currently serves as Vice Mayor. She is running for a second term.

Recently, Penniman voted against raising council and mayor salaries to $40,000 (+70 percent) and $50,000 (+ 67 percent), respectively, having first urged that the matter be put to voters as a ballot initiative. Last year, she filed a complaint with the state ethics panel against fellow council member Sam Saad; the complaint was recently dismissed.

Penniman’s campaign slogan is “Your Voice Matters.” Among her nine campaign initiatives are a focus on affordable workforce housing, continued opposition to the “4th and 4th” garage while seeking more downtown parking for residents, and improved financial management practices. Her campaign website is at www.lindapenniman.com, her City webpage is here and her Facebook page is here.

Penniman grew up in Springfield, IL and lived in St. Louis before moving to Naples in 1976. During her career, she was a fifth-grade teacher, a realtor, and in media industry sales. In Naples, she helped oversee area non-profits focused on philanthropy, education, good-governance, voter outreach and economic development. She participated in Greater Naples Leadership and has served on its Board, the City of Naples Planning Advisory Board, the Collier County Coastal Advisory Committee, and the Moorings Property Owners' Association Board. She currently serves on the Collier Citizens' Council, and recently chaired a forum on beach renourishment. She and her husband Nick have two children and five grandchildren.

According to County court records, Penniman is one of 17 defendants including other current and former Council members in a libel or slander suit filed in October 2017 by a former City of Naples fire chief.

Penniman has endorsements from fellow City Council member Doug Finlay and community leaders David and Jeanne Feight and John Lehmann, President - Old Naples Association.

Gary Price

Gary Price’s campaign slogan is “Proven. Principled. Proud to serve.” His platform for Naples includes proven and trusted leadership, financial stewardship, community engagement, preserving the character and culture of Naples, and community safety and security. In his “First 90 Days,” he says he will focus on community engagement, the proposed narrowing of U.S. 41, redevelopment projects, the pension deficit, and public safety.

His campaign website is www.garypricefornaples.com, his Facebook page is here, and he’s @naplesbeach on Twitter.

Price is a 25-year veteran of the financial services industry. A partner with Fifth Avenue Advisors, he manages wealth and real estate assets for a small number of local families, and handles business mergers and acquisitions.

Price has a B.S.B.A. in Finance and Real Estate from Ohio State University and is a Certified Trust Financial Advisor.

He and his wife Kim moved to Naples in 1999 and have two children. He has served as Chair of the City of Naples Planning Advisory Board, the Naples Community Redevelopment Agency and the Collier County Metropolitan Planning Organization.

In addition, he served on the Naples City Council from 2005 - 2014, including two years as Vice Mayor. During that time, he helped oversee plans for the City’s Baker Park, which he said “broke down after the council mismanaged its fundraising effort and a round of public charrettes.”

He says that while he was Chair of the Naples Pension Board (2008-2016), the performance of the Naples pension was among the best in the state. He led Naples’ pension reform efforts, saving the City and taxpayers more than $160,000,000 over 30 years. He recently said that as a council member, he would urge setting aside money each year to pay off the City’s $48 million unfunded pension liability.

He currently serves as Chair of the State of Florida’s Participant Local Government Advisory Council, which helps oversee the management of $8+ billion in public funds, and on the Naples Planning Advisory Board, to which he was reappointed in 2016.

As a candidate for state Senate in 2015, Price said he was “a true conservative” who wanted to focus on “fiscal discipline, local control of education, and children services and elder care reform.” He also said that “money set aside for Amendment 1 has not been allocated according to the wishes of the Florida people,” and in the same article, “noted with pride that he was the only City Council member to vote against a pay increase.” He ended his candidacy for the Senate, citing his son’s health issues.

Campaign Finance

Campaign finance reports as of the date of this post show:

How I would vote

Hutchison, Penniman and Price would have my vote. All three have demonstrated a commitment to community service and conservative financial management. I like the positions each has expressed on issues facing the City, and their desire for more community input before decision-making. With this research behind me, I could very comfortably cast my ballot.


Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can read Sparker’s Soapbox online at www.sparkers-soapbox.com or subscribe to posts by email at tinyurl.com/subscribe-to-soapbox.

News happens daily! Stay current with Sparker’s Soapbox on Facebook at fb.me/sparkers.soapbox or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.