Sunday, March 31, 2019

State News in Review - March 2019

Last month, I reviewed some of the many things that were happening in the weeks leading up to the start of the 2019 Legislative session. Today I’ll pick up where I left off.

The Legislature convened on March 5 and is now half-way through its eight-week session.

Gov. DeSantis opened the session pledging more money for the environment while outlining proposals to expand school vouchers, boost vocational education, give teachers bonuses and ban “sanctuary” cities. Miami-Herald; Text of Address; YouTube

Following DeSantis’ speech, Senate President Galvano addressed the Senate's session, quoting Lincoln and urging moderation (Tampa Bay Times) and House Speaker Oliva outlined his priorities for the session: health care and higher education (News Service of Florida via WLRN.org).

Most of the almost 3500 proposed bills filed won’t make it through their assigned committees, let alone to the Governor’s desk for signature. Nonetheless, I think it’s important for us to know what our elected representatives are working on. As you skim through this post, perhaps you, like me, will ask: What problems are these bills trying to solve? Are they focused on my community’s and my state’s most significant priorities?

In addition to highlighting the month’s Legislative activity, I’ll share some of what our elected Cabinet members and State and Federal representatives are doing. If we don’t monitor how they’re using their authority, how will we decide if they deserve to be reelected?

As a reminder, all elected officials representing Collier voters are Republicans except for Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried, who is a Democrat. If you’re new to Collier County, as many of my readers are, you might find my Recap and reflections on the November elections helpful in putting my State News posts in context.

In the Legislative Branch

K-12 Education
  • Bill requiring school elective Bible course OK’d in House. In addition to constitutional issues, some lawmakers are concerned about exposing school districts to potentially costly lawsuits without providing them with any money or financial protection. apnews.com, 3/7/19; HB 195
  • House takes steps to eliminate controversial teacher test. The General Knowledge exam “has probably outlived its usefulness," sponsor Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Naples, says. Tampa Bay Times, 3/7/19; HB 7061
  • House panel approves school voucher expansion for middle-class families. The House bill, which is literally twice the size of what the governor and Senate proposed, would create 28,000 new "scholarships" that could be used at private schools and that, eventually, would be available to students with family incomes nearing $97,000 a year. Orlando Sentinel, 3/14/19; HB 7075
    • Related: School voucher plan could be key test for new Florida Supreme Court. Herald-Tribune, 3/8/19
  • Florida lawmakers propose ‘parental rights’ law. It asserts parents’ authority in making decisions about school choice, objecting to classroom materials, and more, and would require school districts to adopt detailed policies promoting parental involvement. Tampa Bay Times, 3/21/19; SB 1726
  • Voucher program for bullied kids is off to a slow and confusing start. As of March 1, 91 students have been awarded Hope Scholarships, and the Department of Education is cracking down on school districts to ensure they’re notifying parents of the program. Florida Phoenix, 3/25/19; SB 1410
  • School book removal bill overhauled before first committee stop. The revision removed most of the controversial provisions, but activists expect to keep on top of it to the end. Tampa Bay Times, 3/25/19; HB 855
  • School board term limits inch closer to 2020 ballot. A resolution to ask voters to decide whether “Eight is Enough” for Florida school board members is headed to the state House floor. Tampa Bay Times, 3/28/19; HJR 229/SJR 274

Regulation of Firearms
  • Legislature advances proposal to let more people carry guns around schools. It would repeal a state law that gives school boards the right to prohibit anyone over the age of 18 from parking on a school campus with a gun securely locked in their vehicle. Florida Politics, 3/12/19; HB 6005/SB 996
  • House advances school security bill that would allow armed teachers. The 36-page bill would allow school districts to let teachers voluntarily participate in the state’s armed guardian program if they survive a rigorous background check and complete required training. Tampa Bay Times, 3/21/19; SB 7030; HB 7093
  • Lawmakers consider allowing guns at churches on school property. A proposal would allow leaders of a religious institution to authorize and establish rules for a person who has a license to carry a concealed firearm when on property it owns, rents or is otherwise lawfully using. Tampa Bay Times, 3/26/19; SB 1238; HB 403

Voting and Elections
  • House Committee passes Amendment 4 bill, requires ex-felons to pay. Democrats on the committee charged that the proposal would impose "a poll tax" on ex-felons to have their voting rights restored. Tallahassee Democrat, 3/19/19; PCB CRJ 19-03
  • Elections bill would give Florida more time to count ballots. The proposal mostly seeks to address concerns raised during the 2018 midterm elections. News Service of Florida via Bradenton Herald, 3/21/19; HB 7101; SB 7066
  • Critics say lawmakers are thwarting voters again – this time about criminal sentencing changes. Inmates who could benefit from Amendment 11 may remain stuck doing time, depending on how lawmakers decide to implement it. Florida Phoenix, 3/26/19; SB 1656; SB 704
  • Lawmakers cite “foreign entities” as reason to restrict citizen-led constitutional amendments. A bill would require people who gather petition signatures to be Florida residents, to register with the Secretary of State’s office, and to not be paid per signature, as is the case currently. Florida Phoenix, 3/28/19; SPB 7096

Preemption of Local Control
  • Legislature moves to stamp out local laws. A bill to prevent any local government from regulating businesses has the backing of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Retail Federation and Associated Industries of Florida. Florida Phoenix, 3/7/19; HB 3/SB 1748
    • Related: Opinion: State legislators are up to the same old tricks. By Karson Turner, president of the Florida Association of Counties and a Hendry County Commissioner, via Tallahassee Democrat, 3/1/19
  • Legislature wants to make it harder for county voters to say ‘yes’ to new taxes. While Florida lawmakers often squawk that Washington frequently overreaches into states, the Legislature does the same to counties. Herald-Tribune, 3/24/19; HB 5, SB 336, SB 1040
  • House targets Airbnb as it moves to preempt local rules on home rentals. Ordinances passed by local governments to restrict their use or impose standards would not apply. Orlando Sentinel, 3/26/19; HB 987
  • Legislature advances measures to stop local governments from banning plastic straws. One would fine any local government that banned straws $25,000; another would prohibit local governments from creating ordinances on a number of issues, including regulating plastic straws. Florida Phoenix, 3/26/19; HB 603; HB 1299
  • Bill would prohibit local governments from regulating employers. It would preempt to the state the right to regulate conditions of employment by an employer and void any existing ordinances. Watchdog.org, 3/27/19; HB 847/SB 432

The Environment
  • Sea level rise bill advances in Florida Senate. The bill mandates that any coastal construction project that receives state funds get a “sea level impact projection” study before commencing. Herald-Tribune, 3/12/19; SB 78
  • Environmental regulation bills start moving in Florida Legislature after algae troubles. Two measures dealing with municipal sewage are the first major algae-related water quality regulation bills to gain traction in the session. Herald-Tribune, 3/12/19; SB 1278; SB 214/HB 85
  • House, Senate bills ban 2 of 3 forms of oil, gas fracking in Florida. Opponents say they don’t go far enough because they would leave in place a rock-dissolving technique called matrix acidizing which could contaminate groundwater supplies. Associated Press via Orlando Sentinel, 3/26/19; HB 7029; HB 239; SB 7064

Health Care
  • DeSantis’ drug importation plan gets Florida House support. One of the bill’s plans would allow the state to import drugs from Canada for Medicaid and prison health care; another would be available to individual residents. Both would need federal approval before being implemented. News-Journal, 3/12/19
  • Don't expect smokable medical marijuana right away. Even though Gov. DeSantis signed the bill into law, it could take weeks or even months before rules are promulgated to make smokable medical marijuana available at state-approved dispensaries. Tallahassee Democrat, 3/15/19 and Tallahassee Democrat via Naples Daily News, 3/19/19; SB 182
  • Firefighters battling cancer look to the Legislature for help. A bill would require cities and counties to create a new compensation and health insurance program for them, but the Florida League of Cities calls it too open-ended. Florida Phoenix, 3/18/19
  • Florida House's free-market overhaul of health care rattles hospitals. The biggest change would end required state approval for a new hospital, called certificate of need, or CON. Orlando Sentinel, 3/29/19; HB 21

Other Legislative News
  • Right to grow front-yard veggies gets green light for Senate floor. ”It’s the principle, but we can’t have someone’s private property rights impacted like that," said Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples. Tampa Bay Times, 3/6/19; SB 82
  • Florida bill defining anti-Semitism as racism advances. Free speech advocates warn the bill faces potential legal challenges unless hate speech directed against Jews is not clearly separated from political criticism of the state of Israel. Watchdog.org, 3/12/19; HB 741/SB 1272
  • Editorial: Bunch of bills might restrict public’s right to see or know. Some are ominous — and in our view, unnecessary — intrusions on First Amendment freedoms and the taxpayers’ right to hold government accountable. Tallahassee Democrat via Naples Daily News, 3/12/19
  • Florida falls in national teacher pay ranking to 46th. Increasing teacher pay lately has come from the Legislature in the form of bonuses, which do not carry a guarantee from year to year, and do not count toward a teacher’s pension. Tampa Bay Times, 3/12/19
  • SFWMD's new governing board names leaders. Chauncey Goss was named as Chairman, Scott Wagner as vice chairman, and Drew Bartlett as the group’s executive director. Florida Politics, 3/14/19; Press Releases
  • SFWMD: Caloosahatchee River reservoir ready in five years. The South Florida Water Management District approved a long-awaited $523 million project that represents one of the final steps in making the “C-43” reservoir built and operational. Fort Myers News-Press via Naples Daily News, 3/14/19
  • Three plans: Governor, Senate, House have 45 days to resolve education budget differences. Per-student funding, teacher bonuses, aid to struggling schools among issues to be reconciled. Florida Watchdog, 3/20/19
  • House seeks tough stance on ‘sanctuary’ cities for noncompliance.“Ifwinknews.com, 3/20/19; HB 527/SB 168
  • Bill puts more teeth in texting-while-driving ban. The measure would shift texting while driving from a “secondary” offense to a “primary” offense. News Service of Florida via Orlando Sentinel, 3/26/19; HB 107, SB 76
  • House Assignment of Benefits (AOB) bill heads to a floor vote in coming week. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Bob Rommel, R-Naples, would make it harder for restoration contractors to collect attorney fees in lawsuits against insurance companies and allow lower premiums for policyholders who give up the right to assign policy benefits. Florida Politics, 3/28/19; HB 7065

In the Florida Cabinet

Attorney General Ashley Moody
  • AG “examining” 10-state lawsuit filed to block underwater blasting that harms whales, dolphins. Florida Phoenix, 3/1/19
  • Florida joins U.S. DOJ and FTC in nationwide sweep to stop tech support scams. Space Coast Daily, 3/10/19
  • Moody helps secure multimillion-dollar recovery in health care fraud scheme investigation. Space Coast Daily, 3/13/19
  • Moody supports proposal to ban sanctuary cities and sue cities that don't cooperate with ICE. News Service of Florida via cltampa.com, 3/19/19; SB 168

Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried
  • Fried appoints Florida’s first LGBTQ consumer advocate. Florida Phoenix, 3/22/19
  • Florida Department of Agriculture declares war on gas skimmers. WUWF, 3/12/19

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis
  • Patronis moves on multiple fronts to expand Florida's fight against fraud. Florida Daily, 3/4/19; ABC7 News, 3/5/19; bizjournals.com, 3/28/19
  • Patronis: Congress must reauthorize Flood Insurance Program; stop states from building in high-risk flood areas. InsuranceNewsNet.com, 3/14/19

In the Judicial Branch

  • Justices delve into ‘stand your ground’ change. Should it apply retroactively? News Service of Florida via The Gainesville Sun, 3/6/19
  • Administrative law judge says school districts must provide security officers to charter schools. News Service of Florida, 3/12/19
  • Florida appellate court weighs 24-hour abortion waiting period. News Service of Florida via Sun Sentinel, 3/26/19

From Collier’s Congressional Delegation

Senator Rick Scott
  • Scott urges GOP colleagues to back Trump on border wall. Washington Examiner, 3/3/19
  • Scott urges U.S. DOT to complete Tamiami Trail, calls it vital to Everglades. Florida Daily, 3/27/19
  • Scott seeking add-ons for Everglades, hurricanes, pre-existing conditions in U.S. Senate budget. Florida Politics, 3/27/19
  • Scott announces Transparent Drug Pricing Act to promote transparency in drug pricing and reduce cost of prescription drugs. Press Release, 3/29/19
  • Scott becomes Trump point man on GOP health care policy. Orlando Sentinel, 3/30/19

Senator Marco Rubio
  • Rubio votes to end Trump's national emergency. Sun Sentinel, 3/14/19
  • Rubio, others, introduce bill giving parents option for paid family leave. Press Release, 3/27/19; Fact Sheet

Congressman Francis Rooney
  • Rooney leads Florida congressional delegation in warding off oil rigs. Florida Politics, 3/2/19; Press Release
  • Rooney takes on the sugar industry, demanding change to the Army Corps of Engineers. WINKNews.com, 3/13/19
  • Brent Batten: Everglades money light in Trump's budget, but Rep. Rooney persisting. Naples Daily News, 3/16/19
  • Rooney files bill to end ‘free speech zones,’ where universities confine political protests. Florida Politics, 3/21/19; HR 1672
  • A multimillionaire construction magnate is Florida’s most pro-environment Republican. Miami-Herald, 3/29/19
  • Rooney wants to end mandated project labor agreements on federal construction projects, saying they discourage non-union competition. Florida Daily, 3/29/19

Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart
  • Diaz-Balart takes new stance on background checks. Miami-Herald, 3/4/19
  • Diaz-Balart among seven Republicans to help pass bill to help close gender pay gap. Roll Call, 3/27/19
___________________________

That’s it for March’s state news. Next up: Local News in Review. Stay tuned!



Friday, March 29, 2019

Update: My post about the Naples Special Election

Naples City Council - April 2, 2019
In my post Monday about the Naples City Council special election, I wrote that candidate Bill Moss did not respond to my emailed invitations to complete to my candidate questionnaire. Later that day, Mr. Moss informed me that my emails were in his “spam” folder and accepted my offer to share his response, albeit belatedly. 
If I had had it before I published initially, I would have included the following two paragraphs to supplement what I had gathered from online research. As I did with the responses of the other candidates, I’ve significantly edited Moss's answers for brevity, so I encourage you to read them in their entirety here.
Moss said three things he wants to accomplish if elected are:
  • “Continue to advocate improvements to water quality…; ensure all capital projects and new land use/development have a water quality component;”
  • “Ensure consistent communication and collaboration with residents, staff and regional agencies;” and
  • “Ensure reasonable and responsible commercial and residential redevelopment consistent with the ambiance of Naples….”

Also -- in that same earlier post, I wrote that Alan Horton is a former Naples Daily News publisher. In fact, he is a former editor of the Naples Daily News and a former publisher with the E.W. Scripps Company. 

In response to the question, “What recent City Council decision(s) did you disagree with the outcome?”, he wrote that he reviewed and would not disagree with any of the decisions made since January 1, 2019, and that, “While I may have influenced the outcome had I been a [participant] on the dais, I respect the decision of the majority of the elected officials.”

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Naples Special Election

Naples City Council - April 2, 2019
Did you know? There will be a special election on April 2nd to fill a seat on the nonpartisan Naples City Council for a term that will end on February 1, 2022. The seat became vacant last month when Councilor Linda Penniman resigned due to the health of her husband.

Even if you're not a City resident, decisions of the Naples City Council affect the quality of life and property values of many Collier voters, so read on! To enter your address and see if you live in the City, click here.

In this post, I’ll summarize what I learned about the candidates from online research, attending a candidate forum, and written responses to four questions I sent the candidates at the email addresses listed on their Campaign Appointment & Designation Forms. Three of the four responded, thoughtfully and with care, in the time allotted. Mr. Moss did not respond to a first or a second request. I’ve significantly edited the answers for brevity, so I encourage you to read them in their entirety via the link in each candidate section, below.

I’ll also share what I learned from the campaign finance reports, and close with how I would vote, and why.

Ted Blankenship
Blankenship
Ted Blankenship, 53, grew up on a small farm, where he “learned the value of hard work early on.” He earned a Bachelor of Science with high honors from Auburn University in Alabama, attended the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School, and earned a Six Sigma Green Belt Certificate (related to process quality management) at Villanova University.

Blankenship is a CPA and former partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers (a large international accounting and consulting firm) with over 30 years of experience in business and large global corporations. He has served as CFO of three companies (one public, two private), and lived and worked in multiple states and countries. His LinkedIn profile is here.

Blankenship, who “is committed to a lifetime of service,” currently serves as board member and treasurer of Youth 4 Orphans (a Naples-based organization that “trains the next generation of Christian leaders to answer God’s call and care for the orphan”), as board member of Gulf Coast Runners, and as an Alternate on the Naples Community Services Advisory Board.

He has been a Naples resident since 2011 and he and his wife Angela Blankenship, a 2nd-grade teacher, have three children. He is an avid runner and has completed 74 marathons to date.

In response to one of my questions, Blankenship said three things he wants to accomplish if elected are:
  • “Accelerate storm water treatment projects…;”
  • “Implement an enhanced fertilizer management ordinance and collaborate with Collier County to adopt a similar ordinance…;” and
  • “Begin to streamline and improve the City’s customer-facing processes”…including the building permit process and communicating key aspects of the budget to citizens….

Asked what recent City Council decision(s) he disagreed with, he cited:
  • “Delays in dealing with water quality issues in Naples Bay and the Gulf; and
  • “Failing to update the fertilizer ordinance to address concerns about the impact on algae in the water.”
His website is here; his responses to my candidate questions are here.

Ray Christman
Christman
Ray Christman, 69, was born in Pittsburgh and raised in St. Petersburg, FL. He received a Business degree from Florida State and a Masters degree from the University of Pittsburgh with a concentration in City Planning.

As a city planner, he says he “spent many years successfully transforming Pittsburgh from a challenged industrial economy to one based on technology, education and health care” as head of Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority and founder/president of the Pittsburgh Technology Council. He then served as Secretary of Commerce for the state of Pennsylvania. In the 1990s - 2000s, Christman spent 15 years in banking, leading first the Pittsburgh and then the Atlanta Federal Home Loan Banks, whose mission is to provide liquidity to support housing finance and community investment. After banking, he turned to the field of land and water conservation, working for local conservancies and as the southeastern U.S. director for the Trust for Public Land (TPL) (a national land conservation organization) with oversight of TPL’s activities in Florida. As the Florida State Director of TPL, he oversaw the campaign to pass, in 2014, the Florida Water and Land Legacy Amendment that created and funded a 20-year program to protect Florida’s water and land resources.

Christman, who says he “has always been active in local civic affairs,” chaired the Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership, the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta, and the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, and served on several nonprofit boards. Locally, he served on the Naples' Community Redevelopment Agency Advisory Board from January 2018 to January 2019 and as Executive Director of Ethics Naples from September 2017 to January 2019, resigning from both positions when he filed to run for Council. He continues to volunteer with the Old Naples Association, of which he is a member, and serves on several national or regional non-profit boards located outside of Naples.

Christman and his wife Eileen began regular visits to Naples in the early 1980s, purchased their home in 2003, and are year-round residents. They have three grown children.

The three things Christman wants to accomplish if elected are:
  • “A comprehensive and integrated Clean Water strategy (Naples Clean Water 2025)....;”
  • “Hit the “reset button” on the growing densification of development in Naples, particularly in its central core....;” and
  • “Develop a strategy and plan [for the City’s Community Redevelopment Area] that is “community centered and people based”, not one that is based on maximum tax dollar monetization of the area....”

Asked to name recent City Council decision(s) he disagreed with, he cited:
  • “The permitting of the 465 Fifth Avenue building (2016), which violated city requirements for permitted number of floors, building height, and underground parking…;”
  • “The permitting of the Old Naples Hotel (2018) on Third and Broad, which allowed for seven variances which together allowed a hotel about 25% too large for the site to go forward…;” and
  • “The decision (2018) not to refer the Ethics Naples referendum petition to the ballot but instead to file legal action against Ethics Naples in an effort to block this initiative….”

In addition, in response to this question, Christman commented on a decision Council almost made: “an ill-conceived proposal to build a public parking garage at a site located at 4th Avenue South and 4th Street.” He concluded, “Council should clearly and definitively take action to remove this proposed project from any possible future consideration."

Christman has been endorsed by City Councilor Terry Hutchison, former Councilors Linda Penniman and Teresa Lee Hietmann, Dolph Von Arx, Chair - Regional Business Alliance SWFL, and John Lehmann, Past President, Old Naples Association. List here.

His website is here; his responses to my candidate questions are here.

George Dondanville
Dondanville
George Dondanville, 68, grew up in Southern Idaho. He earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Denver and a law degree from the Stetson College of Law in St. Petersburg, FL.

He practiced law in Ft. Myers for nine years, first as an assistant State attorney and then in a small private practice. He left the practice of law in 1986, and managed a bicycle shop for 6 years, then opened and managed, for the next 20 years, the first local running store in Naples. He then worked with his wife’s small business as a kayak guide in the backwaters surrounding Naples.

Dondanville says his civic involvement “always dealt with the health, welfare and safety of the citizens.” He served for eight years on the County’s Metropolitan Planning Organization, helping form its first advisory committee regarding sidewalks and pathways. He was also a founding member of the Naples Pathways Coalition, advocating for safe, bikeable, walkable communities. From 1992 to 2000, he served on the City of Naples’ Community Service Advisory Board, advising Council on the remake of Cambier Park and on updating the City Park Master Plan. And he was involved in the first and second attempts at creating the Conservation Collier Program and the Gordon River Greenway.

Dondanville has been a full-time resident of Naples since 1986.

Three things he wants to accomplish if elected are:
  • “…move forward with strong commitments to water and its related natural resource issues…;”
  • “…handle growth so that its consequent traffic issues of congestion do not harm the overall charm or the safety, health, and well being of the City…;” and
  • “…as the City re-develops itself not lose sight of what attracted all of us to live here…”

A recent City Council decision he disagreed with is:
  • “Council acting as Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) at the 30% design phase presentation of the 8th Street corridor project (that was to implement sewer, storm water, and transportation improvements to that corridor) decided not to move forward with most of the transportation improvements that dealt with complete streets….”

His website is here; his responses to my candidate questions are here.

Bill Moss
Moss
According to a full-page ad in the March 2019 Life in Naples magazine, Moss is committed to:
  • “Communication and collaboration with residents, staff and regional agencies;
  • “Restoring financial reserves by making sure the $9 million in FEMA reimbursements is collected;
  • “Protecting Naples’s waterways with proactive stormwater management;
  • “Maintaining low millage rates and maximizing existing resources; and
  • “Advocating for the overall health of the community.”

He retired in January 2019 after serving as Naples city manager for a decade. Before starting work for Naples in 2008, Moss was the city manager of Marco Island for 11 years, starting with its inception as a city in 1998. Moss was previously city manager in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Atlantic Beach, Florida

Moss is a graduate of Southern Illinois University and served a tour in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Bronze Star. He and his family have lived in Collier County for 21 years.

Moss has been endorsed by Mayor Bill Barnett, Vice Mayor Gary Price, Councilors Ellen Seigal, Michelle McLeod and Reg Buxton, former state Rep. Dudley Goodlette, former Naples Daily News publisher Alan Horton, former Naples Mayor John Sorey, former councilman Sam Saad III, among others. List here; website here.

The money
From the most recently-available campaign treasurer reports:

  • Blankenship's campaign is largely self-funded. He raised $950 in 6 contributions from individuals. 
  • Christman raised $36,385 from 84 contributions. Five of the 84 (11% of the money) were from businesses and 79 (89% of the money) were from individuals.
  • Dondanville raised $3,570. His 22 contributions were all from individuals.
  • Moss raised $44,525 from 112 contributions. Thirty of them (32% of the money) were from businesses, three (7% of the money) were from Realtors PAC (with addresses in Tallahassee or Orlando), and 79 (61%) were from individuals.

For details of contributions and expenditures, see the monthly campaign treasurers’ reports here.

About the candidate forums
These articles by Naples Daily News reporter Lisa Conley may be of interest:

How I would vote
Our community is fortunate to have four qualified candidates willing to run and to serve. Each would bring a different set of experiences, skills and priorities to City Council, and that’s the basis on which I evaluated them and made my decision.

If I were a Naples voter, Ray Christman would have my vote.

His experience as a city planner, government official and banker, combined with his appreciation of the need to balance redevelopment and historic preservation, his service on the Naples CRA, and commitment to the Old Naples Association, will bring a uniquely broad perspective to City Council discussion and decision-making. He values the environment and conservation, and knows how other communities have dealt with many of the challenges facing Naples today. Last but not least, I like the fact that the vast majority of his campaign contributions came from individuals, and he took no PAC money.

I urge all City of Naples voters to participate in this special election on April 2. For questions or more information, visit the Office of the City Clerk website or call 239-213-1015.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Local News in Review - February 2019

Here’s my latest review of news for Collier voters about our local elected officials and governing bodies.

In a sentence: the Board of County Commissioners continued exploring development/redevelopment options for East Naples and the eastern county, amended the land development code to attract affordable housing, halted new median landscaping due to budget constraints, and began discussing a possible county-wide fertilizer use ordinance with the cities of Naples and Marco Island; the Naples’ Planning Advisory Board continued review of a proposed redevelopment of the Naples Beach Hotel and golf course; the Marco City Council rejected requested zoning changes related to the Olde Marco Inn and a proposed assisted living facility; and the North Collier Fire District’s plans for fire stations stirred controversy.

Read on for these stories and other news of note from February!

Board of County Commissioners 


Reporting and insight by Brent Batten, Liz Freeman, and Patrick Riley - Naples Daily News 
Next elections: August 2020 Primary. Find your commission district HERE.

Growth, development, and redevelopment

  • Potential buyers eye County land in Estates after residents balked at bus barn idea. Commissioners voted to further explore plans for a property swap between the county and the Collier school system that would put a joint vehicle maintenance facility on the land. District 5 Commissioner Bill McDaniel cast the lone dissenting vote. Naples Daily News, 2/2/19
    • Related: County taking offers on Golden Gate Estates acreage. Naples Daily News, 2/12/19
  • Plan for labs, lofts, arts and shops along Bayshore in East Naples draws interest, skepticism. The project will continue to be scrutinized by the Bayshore Gateway Triangle Community Redevelopment Area advisory board and others before going back before the County Commission. Naples Daily News, 2/12/19
  • Commissioners pass measures to lure affordable housing. The changes to the land development code increase the affordable housing density bonus from 8 to 12 units per acre, which means a maximum of 16 units per acre, in some cases, would be allowed. Naples Daily News, 2/18/19
    • Related:Opinion: Calling it a housing crisis is a stretch. By Donna Fiala, Collier County Commissioner District 1, via Naples Daily News, 2/20/19

Environment

  • Brent Batten: Summer use of fertilizer a growing concern in Collier County. But after three hours of sometimes conflicting testimony at a meeting of Collier County commissioners, Naples City Council members, and Marco Island councilors, it was clear that a consensus on an ordinance doesn't exist. Naples Daily News, 2/12/19 
  • Opinion: We may never get a second chance to weigh in on decisions affecting this much growth in Collier County. Attend the “Future Land Use and Build-out Workshop” on March 5 and have your voice heard. By April Olson, Senior Environmental Planning Specialist, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Florida Weekly, 2/28/19, via Naples Daily News
  • More oil drilling proposed for southern Florida. But nothing is imminent since these projects require extensive permitting and preparation. Sun-Sentinel via Naples Daily News, 2/12/19

Other County news

  • Collier mental health committee tasked with shaping new treatment center. Early draft plans foresee a 24/7 central receiving facility in a 55,000-square-foot building on the campus of the David Lawrence Center on Golden Gate Parkway. Naples Daily News, 2/10/19
    • Related: Depositions ordered in David Lawrence Center dispute with foundation over land for expansion. Naples Daily News, 2/9/19
  • More buses, running longer into night considered to ease traffic in Collier County. Despite projected budget shortfalls even without increasing service, Commissioners Solis and Saunders acknowledge the need. Naples Daily News, 2/5/19
  • 90 percent of Collier gas stations in compliance with new security. Commissioners created a new ordinance as a way to deter thieves from stealing personal information using chip readers and skimming devices. NBC-2.com, 2/11/19
  • Brent Batten: Money for Collier median landscaping running dry; what to do? Maintenance costs have increased from $44,000 per mile in 2017 to $73,000 today, as demand for landscape maintenance labor has not kept up with requests. Naples Daily News, 2/23/19
    • Related: Faced with rising costs, Collier stops new median landscape projects for now. Naples Daily News, 2/26/19
  • Commissioners reject procedural step required to move forward with stormwater fee proposal. The vote was 3 to 2 against approving a procedural step required to preserve the county’s right to use residents’ property tax bills as the method of collecting any proposed future fee. Naples Daily News, 2/26/19

Naples City Council


Reporting and insight by Brent Batten and Lisa Conley - Naples Daily News
Next elections: April 2019 (see below); February 2020. 
  • Naples Beach Hotel redevelopment plan vote delayed amid size concerns. Developers will submit revised plans at the City Planning Board’s March 13 meeting. Naples Daily News, 2/13/19
    • Related: Editorial: Proposal to redevelop Naples Beach Hotel site merits support. Naples Daily News, 2/14/19
    • Related: Brent Batten: How high is high? At the Beach Club, it's not easy to envision. Naples Daily News, 2/26/19
  • Council won't scale back hours of operation for construction workers. Concerns raised earlier in the month were addressed by partnering with the building industry so members decided to leave the hours unchanged. Naples Daily News, 2/19/19; also 2/7/19
A special election to fill the Naples City Council seat recently vacated by Linda Penniman will be held on April 2. City residents who wish to vote in the election must register by March 4. The deadline to request a Vote-By-Mail ballot is March 31. Details here.
  • Council candidates discuss development, water quality in first forum. They were largely in agreement about many of the most pressing issues facing the city. Naples Daily News, 2/27/19
The City of Naples wants to hear from city residents and businesses! They are invited to complete a survey by March 8 as part of the city’s visioning plan assessment. More here.

Marco Island City Council

Reporting by Devan Patel - Naples Daily News / Marco Eagle
Next elections: November 2020
  • Commentary: Marco begins 2019 with first step toward effective government. With the professional help of the interim city manager, I’m hopeful the council will establish a framework for effective governance, one that will be less volatile and subject to manipulation. Charlette Roman, Member, Marco Island City Council, via Naples Daily News, 1/11/19
  • Marco Island ups penalties for violations of endangered species ordinance. But Council stopped short of adding the strictest penalties it can. Marco Eagle, 1/11/19
  • Council rejects assisted living facility. Approval of the requested rezoning would have facilitated the construction of a three-story, 143 unit facility on five of 12 acres. Naples Daily News, 1/23/19
  • Council takes preliminary steps in city manager search. A senior advisor with the Florida City and County Management Association will meet individually with Councillors about what they are looking for in a manager and the city’s most pressing concerns. Marco Eagle, 1/29/19

Collier County School Board

Next elections: August 2020

Fire Districts

Reporting by Jake Allen - Naples Daily News
Next elections: August 2020. Find your fire district HERE.

North Collier Fire District 
  • North Collier fire board unanimously takes neutral position on fire fee legislation. The move came less than six months after voters soundly rejected a proposal that would have allowed fire fees to be levied in the North Collier district. Naples Daily News, 2/13/10
  • North Collier Fire District's plans for stations stir up controversy. Response times and neighborhood intrusion are factors in both proposed moves, which the fire district has been wrestling with for months. Naples Daily News, 2/21/19
That’s it for February’s local news. Later this month: a post on the Naples City  Council candidates … Stay tuned!