Sunday, October 7, 2018

Local News in Review - September 2018

Highlights of local news in September include adoption of next year’s local government budgets and millage rates, and action (or lack thereof) on growth-related and other governmental projects. In addition, the Naples City Council hired a new City Manager to replace retiring Bill Moss (it took two tries) and the Marco City Council made progress toward hiring an Interim Manager (but isn’t there yet). In this post, I’ll share links to these and other stories about September’s local government activities.

I’ll also share articles I found helpful in considering how I’ll vote in the November elections, including several that were either for or against the proposed local sales surtax, and guest commentaries by the candidates running from Congressional District 19 (includes western Collier County), State Senate District 28 (includes all of Collier County), and State House Districts 80 (northern and central Collier County) and 106 (coastal Collier County).

Finally, there are some general interest articles related to the continuing Irma recovery, the environment, Collier schools, and more. Happy reading!

Local budgets and taxes
  • Collier County approves $1.2 billion budget, up 2 percent, keeps tax rate steady. The tax bill for a home will increase only if the property value increased, with a maximum increase of 3 percent for property with a homestead exemption and 10 percent without. Naples Daily News, 9/20/18
  • Collier County School Board approves $1.1 billion budget and tax rate. The new tax rate means the owner of a home valued last year at $400,000, with a homestead exemption, will pay about $15 more next year than she paid this year. Naples Daily News, 9/11/18
  • Marco Island City Council approves budget at roll-back rate. The proposed $25.7 million general fund budget includes a three percent raise for all employees, but for Councilors Bob Brown and Howard Reed, that was not enough. Marco Eagle, 9/24/18
  • Stormwater fee plan put off a year after Collier residents oppose it at hearing. After about four hours of public testimony, county commissioners agreed with residents that the plan needed to be put off and evaluated once more. Naples Daily News, 9/6/18
  • Collier commissioners reject proposed tax to fix rural roads. Naples Daily News, 9/11/18

County projects
  • Commissioners unanimously approve $70 million bond issue to fund amateur sports complex near Collier Blvd and I-75. BCC Meeting Recap, 9/11/18. See also Naples Daily News, 6/12/18
  • Vanderbilt Drive utilities work in North Naples delayed further until September 2019. The county plans to hold a public meeting on the project later this year, once many of the homeowners return for the winter. Naples Daily News, 8/30/18
  • Changes to rural growth plan advanced by Collier County commissioners. They voted unanimously to allow planners to draft amendments to the Rural Fringe Mixed Use District to allow increased density in rural villages, and to allow employment centers, such as medical manufacturing or technology businesses, to stand alone, not be tied to a village center. Naples Daily News, 9/26/18

Local elections: candidate commentaries
  • Out-of-control spending in the swamp of Washington. By Francis Rooney, Congressional District 19, Republican candidate, incumbent, via Naples Daily News, 10/3/18
  • Time for responsible budgeting, watchful Congress. By David Holden, Congressional District 19, Democratic candidate, via Naples Daily News, 10/3/18
  • Civic work helps shape legislative agenda. By Kathleen Passidomo, Florida Senate District 28, Republican candidate, incumbent, via Naples Daily News, 10/1/18
  • Protecting environment preserves our way of life. By Annisa Karim, Florida Senate District 28, Democratic candidate, via Naples Daily News, 9/30/18
  • State is great but still work to do. By Bob Rommel, Florida House District 106, Republican candidate, incumbent, via Naples Daily News, 9/27/18
  • Red tide solutions must be explored. By Sara McFadden, Florida House District 106, Democratic candidate, via Naples Daily News, 9/26/18
  • When it comes to Floridians’ education, one size doesn’t fit all. By Byron Donalds, Florida House District 80, Republican candidate, incumbent, via Naples Daily News, 10/5/18
  • Water quality, education among issues deserving action. By Jennifer Boddicker, Florida House District 80, Democratic candidate, via Naples Daily News, 10/4/18

County sales surtax referendum
  • Voting on a penny. Collier voters to decide on more than just elected officials in November. Florida Weekly , 9/13/18
  • Commentary: Sales tax an investment in Collier’s future. The question before us is how, as a community, do we want to pay for these critical infrastructure improvements. By Garrett Richter, Naples banker and former state senator, via Naples Daily News, 9/29/18
  • Commentary: Local businesswoman takes to YouTube to oppose Collier sales tax. I don’t have a website, Facebook page or Instagram and I have no budget, but my sister made a quick 8 minute video explaining her reasons for opposing the sales tax. Email from Kristine Meek to Sparker's Soapbox, 9/13/18
  • Brent Batten: Naples Chamber invests in PAC to promote sales tax on social media. Local leaders, including former state Rep. Dudley Goodlette and Ed Morton, the former CEO of the NCH Healthcare System, have recorded short videos extolling the benefits of the proposed tax. Naples Daily News, 9/29/18

Local elections - other
  • Editorial: Perils of voting too early in Nov. 6 election. We will not acquiesce to those who want our editorial board to make all recommendations in time for them to return their ballot in early October. Naples Daily News, 9/4/18
  • Collier elections officials increase cybersecurity ahead of midterm elections. They plan to check for vulnerabilities in the system, have invested in a monitoring system that helps identify malicious activity on the network, and plan to replace outdated equipment and add training for information technology staffers. Naples Daily News, 9/21/18

Red tide, fertilizer and Irma recovery
  • City of Naples weakened a seasonal ban on fertilizer as red tide bloom was forming. Councilwoman Linda Penniman, who voted against removing the fertilizer black-out period, said she "strongly supports" implementing higher standards. Naples Daily News, 9/7/18
  • Editorial: Red tide drifts back, keep focus on fertilizer. We applaud local elected leaders who pressed for a review of what’s contributing locally to our polluted waters. Naples Daily News, 9/20/18
  • Not enough backup power added after Irma to avert sewage overflow repeats in Collier County and elsewhere. The modest increase does not ensure there won’t be a repeat of last year’s toxic overflows, or an even more severe public health crisis, in the event of another monster storm or statewide power outage. Naples Daily News, 9/7/18
  • Collier still working to clear hurricane debris from waterways. Irma struck Florida more than a year ago, but cleanup efforts still are ongoing, in part because of funding, evaluations and higher-priority cleanup work closer to residents. Naples Daily News, 9/22/18
  • With Irma debris gone, counties, cities grapple with financial fallout. For Collier officials, Irma brought home the need to begin building a dedicated reserve fund for debris removal efforts for future storms. Naples Daily News, 9/11/18

City of Naples
  • Council finalizes contract with new city manager. Charles Chapman, the current Hendry County administrator, will be paid an annual salary of $200,000 plus a monthly housing allowance of $1,000. Naples Daily News, 9/24/18
  • Related: Naples' top choice for city manager turns down job. Naples Daily News, 9/19/18
  • Naples' Eighth Street project could reduce crashes, but also yards, royal palm trees. The Eighth Street Beautification Project would extend from Fifth Avenue South up to Seventh Avenue North and cost $7 million. Naples Daily News, 8/31/18
  • Judge rules that Naples ethics referendum can appear before voters. If City Council decides not to appeal, or if the appellate court upholds Hayes’ ruling, then the city will have to host a special election, which will most likely occur in early spring, at a cost to the city of $35,000 to $40,000. Naples Daily News, 10/05/18

City of Marco Island
  • Wrong advertisement forces restart of Assisted Living Facility ordinance. City Council will need to rehear the first reading of the ordinance amending the land development code to remove the density parameters for assisted living facilities and allow for conditional approval of certain facilities. Naples Daily News, 9/17/18
  • Related: Marco Council supports changes LDC code change that would aid assisted living facility buildout. Naples Daily News, 9/10/18
  • Marco Island begins interim city manager interviews. The two candidates heard so far declared they were ready to embrace the challenges that await. Marco Eagle, 10/1/18
  • City of Marco Island, police union negotiations progressing despite scheduling error. The vast majority of officers earn well below the minimum sustainable wage for Collier County, which stands at $66,000 for a family of four. Marco Eagle, 9/13/18
  • City Council seeks discussion with county about second ambulance. Chairman Jared Grifoni made the suggestion in noting that the city and county were going to have a joint meeting in the future, which was to include discussion about the city's certificate of public convenience and necessity. Marco Eagle, 9/14/18

Collier Schools
  • Editorial kudos to CCPS for recent parents survey results. The school district received an A grade from 59 percent of responding parents, with 86 percent agree or strongly agree that their child’s school provides a rigorous learning environment. Naples Daily News, 8/31/18
  • Collier students are being sent to alternative schools for discipline in record numbers. State law mandates students who make a threat or bring a weapon to school must be expelled from their regular school for a minimum of one year. However the law gives superintendents the flexibility to send the student to a disciplinary program. Naples Daily News, 9/21/18
  • Editorial kick: outgoing School Board members Donalds and Lichter. Suggestions of lying and collusion were unwarranted. We reiterate our hope that the newly configured board proceeds as planned. Naples Daily News, 9/14/18
  • Ex-treasurer of Mason Classical charter school alleges lax financial oversight, verbal abuse. But the complaint filed with the FDOE does not allege any fraud has occurred. Naples Daily News, 10/6/18

That’s it for now. In the coming days and weeks, I’ll be writing about the offices, candidates, amendments and referendum on Collier voters’ November ballot and sharing how I plan to vote. Stay tuned — and don’t be in a rush to complete your mail ballot. Anything can happen between now and Election Day!