Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Local News in Review - November 2018

As with the State News in Review post I published Monday, I’ve slightly reformatted and added to this latest Local News in Review. The news is organized according to the governing bodies that represent us, links to their websites are included, and the names and links to the web pages of the incumbents whose seats will be on the ballot in 2020 are noted. It’s not too soon to start thinking about the next elections!

I hope in the coming months to help you familiarize yourself a bit more with our local governing bodies and what they do. You can also find links to them and more on the Helpful Websites page of my website.

This is my last post of 2018. With primary and general elections and 47 posts behind me, it’s been a great year! I am humbled that my subscriber list has grown from about 480 at the beginning of the year to 1,102 today, and there are also almost 500 Facebook followers. Knowing that so many people want to be more informed about their government is gratifying. You inspire me to keep going, and I’m looking forward to doing more next year!

Board of County Commissioners (colliercountyfl.gov)

Next election: August 2020 Primary
On the ballot/incumbent: District 1/Donna Fiala, 3/Burt Saunders, 5/Bill McDaniel; Find Your Commissioner here

Growth, development, redevelopment
  • Here we grow: Collier County’s Mark Strain on where we’re headed. Population of the county is projected to at least double, and quite possibly triple, in the next few decades. Chamber Connect via Naples Daily News/Marco Eagle, 11/9/18
  • County discusses plans for enhancing Golden Gate. At a neighborhood information meeting, Saunders supported staff recommendation to adopt zoning and incentives to encourage private landowners and developers to take the lead in improving Golden Gate. Naples Daily News, 11/15/18
  • Mega-permit for rural Collier development draws opposition, support. A conservation group is raising concerns about a plan, years in the making and now seeking federal approval, that would transform more than 150,000 acres of crops, groves, pasture and natural lands in northeast Collier County into a mix of towns and preserves. Naples Daily News, 12/1/18

Housing
  • Commissioners move ahead with affordable housing on one property, reject plan for second site. Staff will pursue options on the 5-acre “Bembridge site” on Santa Barbara Boulevard, but commissioners opposed, 3-2, considering housing on a portion of a 59-acre future site of a “Manatee Park” south of U.S. 41 in East Naples. Naples Daily News, 11/13/18
  • Related: Editorial: Opportunity missed to seek innovative affordable housing ideas. Naples Daily News, 11/17/18
  • Vacation home renters could see new rules in Collier County. The County's Tourist Development Council voted nearly unanimously to recommend county staff take a comprehensive look at vacation homes and condos offered for rent in the unincorporated area — and consider the need for stricter rules to govern them. Naples Daily News, 11/26/18
  • Related: Editorial: Short-term rentals merit attention, but not the heavy hand of over regulation. Naples Daily News, 11/27/18

Taxation
  • Tax fatigue? Collier commissioners agree to keep stormwater fee alive. They voted 4-1 (Commissioner Burt Saunders voting no) to allow county staff to continue revising a potential stormwater fee and come back with additional alternatives. Naples Daily News, 11/13/18
  • Editorial: A taxing issue to watch in Collier government. Three upcoming County Commission discussions bear monitoring by sales tax voters and citizens who historically haven’t spoken up often about the county budget. Naples Daily News, 11/25/18

Other
  • County holding public meeting on Goodland Drive. Having taken back responsibility for the frequently flooded road that is the only way in or out of Marco Island, County government is moving to alleviate flooding and restore historical tidal exchanges between the east and west mangrove stands. Marco Eagle, 11/6/18
  • BCC passes ordinance to protect residents from gas pump skimmers. Commissioners voted unanimously to add an ordinance that would require gas stations to secure fuel pumps and protect residents from a theft of their personal financial information. NBC-2.com, 11/13/18
  • Collier brings back free shuttles to Vanderbilt Beach, Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park. Funded by a state grant, the program allows beachgoers to ride to and from Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park; Vanderbilt Beach; Conner Park, on 111th Avenue North, west of U.S. 41; and a bus stop near Immokalee Road and Creekside Trail. Naples Daily News, 11/21/18
  • With no site in sight, prospects of long-promised Collier ATV park in question. The $3 million budgeted is not enough to buy a property and construct a park, said Barry Williams, Director - Collier Parks and Recreation. Naples Daily News, 11/27/18
  • Collier rejects medical marijuana dispensaries — again. Commissioners Donna Fiala and Penny Taylor again voted against the measure. Approval would have required a super majority vote. FOX4, 12/12/18

Constitutional Offices

Next elections: August 2020
On the ballot: five constitutional offices

In Collier County and Florida’s 46 other non-charter counties, voters elect five constitutional officers every four years. Each oversees an organization funded by taxpayer dollars that provides essential services to county residents.

The constitutional officers, names of Collier’s incumbents and their websites are:

While these officers and the people and activities of their offices are not often in the news, when I come across something relevant to me as a Collier voter, I’ll share it here. In November:
  • Collier Sheriff's officer runs mental health bureau with heart and soul. Lt. Leslie Weidenhammer, a former road patrol duty officer, is coordinator of the Sheriff's mental health bureau, which she helped launch in 2016 at the direction of Sheriff Kevin Rambosk. Naples Daily News, 11/17/18

Naples City Council (naplesgov.com)

Next elections: February 2020
On the ballot/incumbents: Mayor/Bill Barnett; 3 Councilors/Reg Buxton, Michelle McLeod, Ellen Seigel

  • Naples bans commercial vehicles from parking on Port Royal streets. Councilors unanimously approved the ban, after the City’s Streets and Stormwater Department director explained that service trucks parking on the side of the road are a safety concern. Naples Daily News, 11/19/18
  • Naples Beach Hotel proposed redevelopment clears first hurdle. The City’s Design Review Board members liked many aspects of the proposal, but raised concerns about its mass and size. Naples Daily News, 11/28/18
  • Coastland Mall redevelopment plans include movie theater. A final vote by the Design Review Board is required, along with City Council approval. Naples Daily News, 11/29/18
  • Naples City Council rejects ordinance that would have created ethics commission. The proposal was rejected 4-3, with council members McLeod, Hutchison, Penniman and Price dissenting. Naples Daily News, 12/5/18
  • Related: Naples Council changes course, will appeal ruling on creating ethics panel. The vote to continue the legal battle against Ethics Naples, the group behind the proposed referendum, was 5-2, with Penniman and Hutchison dissenting. Naples Daily News, 11/7/18
  • Naples Planning Board calms concerns about retaining small-town feel. The city is re-evaluating its vision plan, and there will be four public workshops in January (see naplesvisioning.com). Naples Daily News, 12/12/18

Marco Island City Council (cityofmarcoisland.com)

Next elections: November 2020
On the ballot/incumbents: 4 Councilors/Jared Grifoni, Larry Honig, Howard Reed, Charlette Roman

  • For 17 of the past 22 months, Marco Island has been without a trained, qualified, professional city manager. That absence has slowly been taking a toll on the city. By Charlette Roman, Marco City Council, Fall 2018 Newsletter
  • BCC offers two options for increasing ambulance coverage on Marco Island. Councilor Jared Grifoni, who represented the City Council during negotiations last month, characterized the offers as progress but said it was yet to be seen whether either option was right for the city. Marco Eagle, 11/15/18
  • New Marco Council voices support for former chairperson. Post-election, the Council approved a motion to express confidence in chairman Jared Grifoni by a 5-2 vote. Councilors Howard Reed and Charlette Roman, voted no. Marco Eagle, 11/19/18
  • Planning Board approves application for Marco Island assisted living facility. The application paves the wave to create a 12-acre medical campus and a 12,000-square-foot urgent care facility for NCH. Marco Eagle, 11/8/18
  • Related: Failure to give proper notice will require Marco Planning Board to re-hear assisted living facility proposal. Naples Daily News, 11/24/18
  • Marco cop cashed in personal time, bought condo after using other officers' donated hours. While City Clerk Laura Litzan said there was no explicit policy about the use of donated leave hours, the use of donated hours ahead of an employee’s own hours contradicts best practices established by human resources experts. Marco Eagle, 11/6/18


Collier County School Board (collierschools.comSchool Board)

Next elections: August 2020 Primary
On the ballot/incumbents: District 2 (Stephanie Lucarelli), 4 (Erick Carter)

  • The school district, Collier County Sheriff’s Office and Marco Island Police Department reach memorandums of understanding. The agreements provide armed school resource officers in all Collier public schools, including charter schools, through the end of the current school year. Naples Daily News, 11/16/18

Find your fire district here. Next elections: November 2020


  • Greater Naples Fire Rescue District challenged to meet expectations with limited funding. The District will “need to increase resources and capabilities, all while administering cost-effective budget strategies that maximize resources and expenditures.” Chief Schuldt's Weekly Message, 11/7/18
  • Commentary: Balancing budget against out-of-area response. Providing emergency response beyond fire district boundaries has its costs but reminds us that many decisions that commissioners tackle aren’t solely based on the budget, but must also consider the human element. By J. Christopher Lombardo, Chairman, North Collier Fire Control & Rescue District board, via Naples Daily News, 11/25/18
  • Commentary: Inter-agency cooperation between North Collier Fire & Rescue District and Collier EMS saves lives. The District’s current Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (COPCN) will expire March 31, 2019. The application for renewal will be considered by the BCC at their January 8, 2019 meeting. Message from the Board of the Fire Commissioners, 12/12/18
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Correction: As originally published, I wrote that “my subscriber list has grown from about 400 at the beginning of the year to almost 2,000 today.” The correct number is 1,102. I apologize for the unintentional error.



Sunday, December 9, 2018

State News in Review - November 2018

With the elections behind us, the transfer of power has begun. In this post, I’ll start with some transition-related news, then turn to the ongoing business of government.

Long-time readers may notice a few changes in this month’s State News in Review, and I plan to continue them going forward. I now include in the post:
  • News about our representatives in Congress - so we’ll be in a better position to evaluate and hold them accountable when they’re up for reelections, and
  • Separate sections for news about the Governor and Cabinet, the Legislature, and the Courts - to help remind us that we elect people to represent us in each of those branches of government.
If you are one of the hundreds of readers who responded to my Sparker's Soapbox subscriber survey, thank you! The input about areas of reader interest was helpful. I will work to incorporate it into my monthly “in-review” posts. And I’m also considering some new types of posts or platforms to address those interests in the months ahead. For a summary of the survey responses, visit my Sparker's Soapbox Facebook Page here.

I’ll be following up separately with the respondents who said they might be interested in an in-person class or discussion group about state and local government. If you are interested and didn’t say so in the survey, please reply to this email and let me know!

As always, thank you for your interest in being an informed voter!

The transition of power


As the result of the 2018 elections, Collier County will be represented in Congress by Republicans Rick Scott (Senator) and Representatives Francis Rooney (CD-19) and Mario Diaz-Balart (CD-25). What do these men want to accomplish in office?

  • Rick Scott wants to reinvent federal government and change, “like we did in Florida,” the direction of Washington, D.C. FOX 4, 11/7/18; see Scott’s “Make Washington Work” plan for details.
  • Francis Rooney’s top priorities are building the Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir and repairing Lake Okeechobee’s Herbert Hoover Dike. Naples Daily News, 11/7/18
  • Mario Diaz-Balart’s priorities are a strong military, a strong economy and the best possible educational system. Naples Daily News, 11/7/18

Ron DeSantis (Governor), Jimmy Patronis (Chief Financial Officer), Ashley Moody (Attorney General) and Nikki Fried (Commissioner of Agriculture) will take office on January 8. Representing Collier County in the Florida Legislature will be returning Senator Kathleen Passidomo (SD-28) and Representatives Bob Rommel (HD-105), Byron Donalds (HD-80) and newly-elected Ana Maria Rodriguez (HD-105). All are Republicans except Fried, who is a Democrat.

Some transition-related news of note:
  • A delayed swearing-in. Scott will remain in his current role until DeSantis is sworn in on January 8. A spokesman said the reason is that he “promised to fight for Florida families every single day of his term.” Miami-Herald, 12/4/18
  • What’s first on the agenda for Florida’s next governor? Ron DeSantis mentioned water quality, the environment, the Lake O reservoir, and the Florida Supreme Court in his election victory speech. Tampa Bay Times, 11/7/18
  • Newly-elected Ag Commissioner promises audit of concealed weapon permitting program. Fried’s plan has precipitated a likely legislative battle over whether the program should be moved to a different state agency - one headed by a Republican - or to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. APNews Florida via Naples Daily News, 12/2/18
  • Incoming Attorney General Moody names man who lobbied for opioid industry to inaugural committee. His recent client is at the heart of arguably the biggest lawsuit the AG’s office is handling right now. Tampa Bay Times, 11/27/18

And in the ongoing business of government:

The Governor and Cabinet


  • Over Sierra Club objections, Gov. Scott and Cabinet sign off on FPL power plant. The approval came after Scott, CFO Patronis and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam failed to disqualify themselves from the decision despite having received campaign contributions from FPL and its parent company, NextEra Energy, during the recent elections. CBS Miami, 11/30/18
  • DeSantis’ Supreme Court choices could secure Florida’s Republican reign. But some worry about the potential impact of a situation where actions by a Republican governor and GOP-led Legislature are endorsed by a conservative high court. Gainesville Sun, 12/8/18
  • Related: NAACP calls for reopening Supreme Court nominations. For first time in 36 years, there will be no African-Americans on the state Supreme Court. News Service of Florida via sunshinestatenews.com, 12/1/18
  • DeSantis quietly telling education leaders Corcoran likely next commissioner. The appointment of the staunch advocate for school choice programs would usher in a likely continuation of the pro-school choice policies that have defined the Department of Education during Scott’s two terms in office. Politico Florida, 11/30/18
  • Related: League of Women Voters objects to hasty appointment of commissioner. They urged members of the State Board of Education to conduct a national search for “an individual of the highest possible caliber” ... “and not simply “rubber stamp” a politically motivated choice.” lwvfl.org, 12/7/18
  • Arrest of opioid treatment center owner for insurance fraud underscores importance of anti-fraud efforts. “Combating fraud at opioid treatment centers will remain one of my top priorities,” CFO Patronis said. CFO Press Release, 11/9/18
  • Opioid lawsuits: Attorney General Bondi sues CVS, Walgreens and fentanyl-spray prescriber Insys. While other states reaped millions in legal settlements in the last two years, Florida stayed on the sidelines until now, despite its place at the center of Insys’ marketing blitz. Palm Beach Post, 11/21/18

The Florida Legislature


In late November, incoming House Speaker Jose Oliva and Senate President Bill Galvano laid out visions for their terms and made key assignments.

  • Oliva urges ‘restraint’ as lawmakers are sworn in. “If we allow ourselves to be told that we must learn to compromise, we will end up in an ideological mush in the center,” he said. Miami-Herald, 11/20/18
  • Florida health care ‘behind the curve’? Oliva wants to expand the scope of practice for Florida nurses, but Galvano wants to “make sure we are listening to our doctors.” News Service of Florida, 11/23/18
  • New laws? Or following the old ones? Galvano expects the Legislature to review various aspects of the elections process, but Oliva isn’t certain Florida election laws need a tweak. News Service of Florida, 11/21/18
  • Related: “It's not a question of reform. It's a question of making sure you have the proper tools to conduct a seamless election,” said Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples. NBC-2, 11/20/18
  • Galvano taps leaders of Senate committees. He slimmed down the number of lawmakers holding committee chairmanships and trimmed the number of Democrats in leadership spots. News Service of Florida via flanewsonline.com, 11/26/18
  • Related: Brent Batten: Passidomo attains a different and higher office in promotion to Senate Majority Leader. If she keeps her seat in 2022 and Republicans keep control of the Senate, she could be Senate president in the session that begins in 2023. Naples Daily News, 12/1/18
  • Oliva names committee chairs. Of note, Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, who has demonstrated willingness to further expand school choice and charter schools in Florida, will head the Education Committee. Florida Politics, 11/7/18

Public education
  • Florida voters are saying yes when school districts ask for more money. Is that a good thing?"I think the dollars ((the state provides)) to the districts are adequate for what they need to provide quality education to their students," said Passidomo, noting that some districts seem to be surviving without asking for more. Tampa Bay Times, 11/12/18
  • Florida House, Senate set to battle over education policy. A brewing fight pits supporters of traditional public schools against advocates for more school choice. Tallahassee Democrat, 11/23/18
  • Florida public school allies raise concerns. The appointments of pro-charter school lawmakers – with questionable credentials, according to their critics – as leaders of the House and Senate Education Committees have alarmed public education allies on the left and right. Tallahassee Democrat, 12/8/18
  • Battle continues over education law. More than 18 months after passage of controversial HB 7069, pushed by then-House Speaker Richard Corcoran, attorneys for the state and 11 county school boards are continuing to battle in court about whether the measure violates the Florida Constitution. News Service of Florida via news4jax.com, 11/28/18
  • Teachers with guns? The idea is back, but many Florida educators still say no thanks. Among them is Collier Schools Superintendent Dr. Kamela Patton. Tampa Bay Times, 11/30/18

Other legislative news of note
  • Rommel cosponsors bill to require 66-2/3 percent vote to amend the constitution. It’s his first and only bill filed for the 2019 session as of 12/9. HJR 57, 11/28/18. Sponsored bills of Rep. Rommel
  • Passidomo aims to protect state’s affordable housing trust fund. One of the first bills filed by the Naples Republican for this session aims to protect the State Housing Trust Fund and Local Government Housing Trust Fund, better known as the Sadowski Trust. Florida Politics, 11/29/18; Sponsored bills of Sen. Passidomo
  • Influential state senator files bill to ban "bundled" amendment proposals. SB74 offers a single-subject limitation as a legislative fix for the grouping together of unrelated measures into the same amendment. Florida Politics, 11/23/18
  • Pre-filed bills recycle failed text-drive ban. Others seek repeal of 2018 beach access law and to outlaw “conversion therapy,” restrict local regulation of residential vegetable gardens, require sea level impact projection studies and exempt diapers from sales taxes when the session begins March 5. Florida Watchdog, 11/27/1

The Florida Courts


  • Florida Supreme Court reverses course on re-sentencing for juvenile offenders. The reversal follows a change in the Court’s makeup since the earlier decision; Justice Alan Lawson was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2016. Tampa Bay Times, 11/26/18
  • Court ponders whether felons rights ruling needed. Following passage of Amendment, attorneys for the plaintiffs and the state are to file arguments about whether the federal lawsuit challenging the state’s clemency process is now moot. Ocala Star-Banner, 11/26/18
  • Florida Supreme Court, in 4-3 decision, gives Scott approval to appoint a replacement for a retiring circuit judge. A dissenting justice called the situation a “travesty.” News Service of Florida via wlrn.org, 11/27/18
  • Senate Democrats begin process to reform Florida’s troubled judicial nominating process. Court packing and lack of diversity in judicial picks spur drive for legislative action. Florida Senate Minority Office Press Release, 11/30/18

Other of note


  • South Florida Water Management District vacates consent decree on Everglades restoration. The state promised 30 years ago to clean up polluted farm water draining into Everglades National Park, but now Board members say the federal oversight is no longer necessary. TCPalm, 11/8/18
  • Water District board OKs leasing EAA reservoir project's land to sugar grower.Treasure Coast Newspapers, 11/9/18
  • Related: Critics question timing, legality of agriculture lease. Some environmental groups and politicians are fuming over a state water district's decision to extend a Florida Crystals lease on land designated for an Everglades restoration project. News-Press, 11/9/18

Note: The South Florida Water Management District is a regional governmental agency that manages the water resources in the southern half of the state, covering 16 counties from Orlando to the Florida Keys. Learn more…

  • Ethical? Ex-Senate president takes job with private prison firm, big campaign donor. As a senator, Joe Negron was instrumental in getting the company millions in taxpayer dollars and voted for a bill that would have privatized the entire prison system. Miami-Herald, 12/8/18
  • Amendment 4 passed: What’s next for convicted felons and their voting rights? Some fear state officials could drag their feet in implementing a voter-mandated overhaul of the constitution that might hurt GOP candidates. Tampa Bay Times, 11/8/18
  • Grassroots group working on a ballot measure banning assault weapons in Florida. It hopes to get its proposed amendment on the 2020 ballot. Florida Phoenix, 11/27/18

Congress

  • Francis Rooney wants to protect religious organizations from labor unions. “I introduced this bill to ensure” that “religious organizations should not be forced to bend to the will of labor unions,” he said. Sunshine State News, 11/26/18
  • Florida Congressmen push carbon fee and refunds legislation. Francis Rooney and two others are backing the “Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act” (EICDA), a proposal to reduce carbon usage with price controls and then offer rebates back to American taxpayers. Sunshine State News, 11/28/18

That’s my slightly-delayed review of November state news. Next up will be a review of local news. Stay tuned!