Sunday, April 29, 2018

Local News in Review - April 2018


Here’s my latest review of local news about decisions made by our elected officials and our governing bodies.

In one sentence: The County Commission moved a one percent sales tax to the November ballot but failed to act on affordable housing; the county’s crime rate continued its steady decline; the City of Naples Planning Board is considering proposals for the Third Street South Plaza and related parking challenges; City voters will face an Ethics Panel referendum in November; and the School Board adopted tough new security measures in the wake of the Parkland shootings.

For more on these and other stories voters should be aware of, read on!

Board of County Commissioners
Sales tax referendum
Managing growth and development
Other County news
City of Naples
City of Marco Island
Collier County Public Schools
Local elections

That’s it for April’s local news. Stay tuned in the coming days for my review of state government news!

Catch up: My last post | My website

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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.



Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Get Ready to Vote in the August 2018 Primaries

Primary Elections
August 28, 2018
Less than 100 days from now, vote-by-mail ballots for the August 28 primary elections will be on the way to Collier voters who requested them. Early voting begins on August 18.

Between now and then, I’ll be researching the candidates and issues to help inform Collier voters. And I’ll share what I learn and how I’ll vote in a series of “Get Ready to Vote” posts in the coming weeks and months. This is the first in that series, and I'll start with the basics.

What will be on the ballot?
From the Collier Supervisor of Elections and Florida Department of State websites, I learned that these offices will be on the ballot if contested:
  • Federal Legislative: U.S. Senate and House (Districts 19 and 25)
  • State Executive: Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Chief Financial Officer, Commissioner of Agriculture
  • State Legislative: State Senate (District 28), State House (Districts 80, 105, 106)
  • State Attorney 20th Circuit, Public Defender 20th Circuit
  • Circuit Judges 20th Circuit, County Court Judges
  • County: Commissioner (District 2 and 4)
  • School Board: Member (Districts 1, 3 and 5)

What are the types of races and who gets to vote in each?
Partisan vs nonpartisan
Florida is a closed primary state, which means that only people registered with a political party can vote in that party’s primary.

In August, there will be both partisan elections, in which only registered party members can vote, and nonpartisan elections, in which all registered voters, regardless of party, can vote.

However, if all the candidates for an office have the same party affiliation and the winner of the primary election will not face any opposition in the general election (i.e. no write-in candidates have qualified), then all registered voters can vote for any of the candidates for that office in the primary election. This is referred to as the “write-in loophole,” and it was a major factor in the 2016 primary elections. See Editorial: Act now to get write-in loophole fix on November ballot, Treasure Coast Newspapers via Naples Daily News, 4/8/18.

At-large vs single-district
In addition, there will be both at-large elections, in which all registered voters can vote regardless of where in the county they live, and single-district elections, in which only those who live in the district can vote. Your district information is printed on your voter registration card, or call or email the Supervisor of Elections office: (239) 252-VOTE (8683) or SupervisorofElections@colliergov.net.

Here is a summary of those distinctions for Collier voters’ August elections:



Things to do right now
  • Request a vote-by-mail (VBM) ballot if you won’t be in town to vote in person or if you simply prefer the time savings of voting from home, as I do. Do it online by answering a few questions and then printing out, signing and mailing in a form, or by requesting a paper form to fill out from the Supervisor of Elections office: (239) 252-VOTE (8683). or SupervisorofElections@colliergov.net. The postal service will not forward vote-by-mail ballots, even if you’re arranged for mail forwarding. You MUST give the Supervisor of Elections the address to which your ballot should be mailed.
  • Check the status of your VBM ballot if you’ve already requested one. Confirm it online or by phone (239–252-VOTE) (8683). For me, the website shows:


  • Review your voter registration information and make any needed changes. Do it online or by calling the Supervisor of Elections office: (239) 252-VOTE (8683). Make sure they have your current address and the party affiliation of the primary you want to vote in. If the signature on file might not match your current signature, consider updating it. I update mine every few years.

That’s it for now. I look forward to becoming a more informed voter and sharing what I learn. It’s in all of our best interests to participate in an informed way in the election process and to take full advantage of our right to vote. After all, democracy is not a spectator sport.

Note: As published 4/16/18, we wrote that all judicial elections were nonpartisan. Updated 04/17/18:  State Attorney and Public Defender elections are partisan, Circuit and County Court Judges are nonpartisan.

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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.



Tuesday, April 10, 2018

State News in Review - March 2018++

It’s a wrap!
After a three-day extension, the Legislature ended its 2017–18 session on Sunday, March 11, with the passage of a $88.7 billion budget. That’s not just a record for the state. It’s more than Gov. Scott’s $87.4 billion request, the House’s $87.2 billion proposal and the Senate’s $87.3 billion bill.
The budget
Important bills signed by the governor
The “train” bill (HB 7055) — which the Governor signed — includes dozens of changes for the state’s 67 school districts. They include:
  • a new "Hope scholarship" program, which offers vouchers for public-school students who are bullied or otherwise face harassment, to transfer to private schools;
  • a new voucher program that bolsters the existing Gardiner scholarships, which provide aid to disabled students, and could be used to expand the longstanding Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program;
  • a new voucher program that provides reading scholarships, which can be used for private services like tutoring for struggling readers in the third through fifth grades;
  • requiring schools to prominently display the state motto, “In God We Trust;” and 
  • overhauling rules governing charter schools, including raising evidentiary standards used by school boards in terminating charter contracts. 
Related: Florida leads nation in school vouchers, and there are more to come. Miami-Herald, 3/31/18 
Related: Private school voucher plan for bullied children becomes law. Herald-Tribune, 3/11/18 
Related: Private voucher schools face new rules but still free to hire teachers without degrees. Orlando Sentinel 3/12/18 
Related: Florida Senate deals blow to teachers unions. Palm Beach Post, 3/3/18 
Bills that failed
In the courts
An update on the Constitution Revision Commission
The Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) is a group of 37 people appointed last year to review and recommend changes to the Florida Constitution. It’s one of five ways Florida can amend its constitution, and it only happens once every 20 years. Proposals it approves will be on Florida ballots in November.

In all, 782 public proposals and 103 commissioner proposals were considered by the Commission. In late March, commissioners agreed to send 25 of them to the  Style & Drafting Committee, which will clarify, codify, arrange and group them, and draft the ballot title summaries to appear on the ballot. The CRC will meet again in April for a final vote.
It was another busy month!

In April: The Legislature may be called back for a special session if an updated gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe is reached. The CRC will likely finalize the amendments it will put on the November ballot. And state and local election campaigns will continue to heat up. On Monday, as long-expected, Rick Scott declared his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, challenging incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson. Many say Florida will be the “battleground for control of Congress.”

Stay tuned for next month’s Sparker's Soapbox for updates!
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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.



Thursday, April 5, 2018

Local News in Review - March 2018

Here’s my latest review of local news about our governing bodies and decisions made by our elected officials! Top stories:

The County Commission approved the referendum language and project priorities of a one-cent sales tax increase that will appear on the ballot in November, grappled with failing conditions of some of the County’s busiest roads, and was chided for not dealing with the affordable housing shortage by the Daily News Editorial Board.

Naples City Council needs a new city manager after learning that incumbent Bill Moss will retire at the end of the year, and their Marco Island counterpart needs one, too, after firing embattled Lee Niblock …. Collier Schools officials and Sheriff Kevin Rambosk weighed in on school safety following the Parkland shooting … Superintendent Kamela Patton was recognized by the Florida Commissioner of Education for her use of data to improve students' college and career readiness … and a seventh candidate entered the Collier School Board race.

For more on these and other stories Collier voters should be aware of, read on!

Board of County Commissioners
County sales tax referendum
Managing growth and development
Maintaining and repairing infrastructure
Other BCC news
City of Naples
City of Marco Island
Collier County Public Schools
School Safety
Other CCPS news
Local elections
That’s it for last month’s local news. Stay tuned in the coming days for my next State News Month in Review!

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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.