In Collier County, 55 percent of all residents are fully vaccinated, but the unvaccinated are at very high risk of contracting the disease. In the past 14 days, the number of average daily cases and hospitalizations have increased 119 and 207 percent, respectively. And the test positivity rate is high, suggesting that cases may be undercounted. (NYTimes, 8/1/21)
The NCH Healthcare System is reporting an 800% increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations over the last month. It is now treating 95 COVID-19 patients, up from the 12 it had three weeks ago, and 83 percent of them are unvaccinated. (Naples Daily News, 7/28/21)
NCH is requiring all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 16, becoming the first hospital system in Southwest Florida to mandate the vaccine. Roughly 57% of the system’s workforce is vaccinated already, although the number may be higher because some employees may not have reported getting the shots elsewhere. According to NCH’s website, 22 employees have tested positive for the virus or are isolating due to family or community exposure. (Naples Daily News, 8/1/21)
Board of County Commissioners
Collier County residents are represented by one of five elected county commissioners.
Find Your County Commissioner
Coastal Storm Risk Management
A newly-formed Coastal Storm Risk Management Stakeholders Task Force held its initial organizational meeting on Jul. 20 (video replay here).
According to Commissioner Penny Taylor, Task Force Chair, the group’s charge is to evaluate citizen concerns and public comments about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) proposed Coastal Storm Risk Management Plan and present them to an upcoming Technical Task Force. (Naples Daily News, 7/21/21)
The Stakeholders Task Force is open to any concerned citizen, but due to restrictions of the Florida Sunshine Law, it is recommended that neighborhood associations nominate one representative each. (Collier County News Release, 7/8/21)
Last year, the USACE presented to county and city elected officials and managers a feasibility study and proposed plan of coastal storm risk management options it had developed at the County’s request.
Beach renourishment, structural infrastructure including surge barriers, floodwalls, pump stations and jetties, and nonstructural critical infrastructure are among the flood protection options proposed in the plan.
The $2.1 billion cost of the plan would be shared by the federal government (65%) and Collier County (35%) over a projected 50 years.
The plan drew considerable concern from community members. For example, residents and representatives of Marco Island said the plan does not do enough to protect the County’s only barrier island, and the northwest portion of the island was not even considered in the plan. Residents of other communities, including Naples Cay and Pelican Bay, also feel the plan leaves them vulnerable. (Naples Daily News, 4/28/21)
In April, facing a deadline to do so, commissioners unanimously agreed to sign two non-binding letters of support for the plan, while expressing reluctance for it as written. They also agreed to establish a Task Force to review the study. (Naples Daily News, 4/28/21)
At the next BCC meeting on Sep. 14, Commissioner Taylor plans to ask the Board to again review the plan “in the light of other considerations not discussed at our [previous] meeting.” (Commissioner Taylor newsletter, 7/30/21)
Bill of Rights Sanctuary County Ordinance
A proposed Bill of Rights Sanctuary County Ordinance was narrowly rejected by the BCC by a vote of 2-3. See my Jul. 10 post about the ordinance and related context and my Jul. 14 post about why the individual commissioners said they voted as they did.
Expansion of Collier Mosquito Control District
Commissioners voted this month to expand the boundary of the Collier Mosquito Control District, a move some environmental groups said could harm conservation lands. The district has expanded seven times between 1963 and 2003, as the inhabited portion of the county has grown. (Naples Daily News, 7/13/21)
Patrick Linn, the District’s executive director, said including conservation lands such as the Picayune Strand State Forest, Rookery Bay and lands held within the county’s conservation program is a strategic move to protect human health. It may be several years before the District exerts any kind of control in those areas, he said, but the District first needs to get into them to conduct research.
The vote was 4-1, with Commissioner Taylor opposed.
For background on the Collier Mosquito Control District and its elected Board, see my post On the Ballot: Collier Mosquito Control District.
Rural Growth Plan Amendments
This month, the BCC unanimously approved several additional modifications to the County’s plan for managing growth in the Rural Lands Stewardship Area (RLSA) of eastern Collier County. The modifications are designed to limit growth, incent the permanent retention of land for agriculture, restore flow ways and native habitat, and require developers to set aside land for affordable housing. (Naples Daily News, 7/14/21)
In Other News
Collier County has accepted a grant to fund treatment for inmates with opioid addiction at the Naples Jail Center. The county, Collier County Sheriff’s Office, and David Lawrence Center partnered to apply for the grant and fund its $1.2 million match obligation. (Naples Daily News, 7/9/21)
A multimillion-dollar FPL solar plant will be coming to Immokalee, following County commissioners’ grant of final approvals and zoning changes this month. The project is part of FPL’s plan to install 30 million solar panels by the year 2030. (Naples Daily News, 7/4/21)
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida filed an appeal in Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal after losing its challenge in Circuit Court of the proposed rural village known as Rivergrass. (Naples Daily News, 7/2/21)
Collier County will have a new tourism director. Paul Beirnes will succeed Jack Wert, the well-known head of the County’s Tourism Division, who is retiring effective Sep. 30, 2021. (Naples Daily News, 7/31/21)
Naples City Council
City of Naples residents are represented by an elected mayor and six elected city councilors.
Meet the Naples City Council
The Naples City Council did not meet in July. Its next regular meeting is scheduled for Aug. 18.
In the news this month:
- Naples Ethics Commission to self-start investigations based on informal complaints. (Naples Daily News, 7/12/21; Ethics Commission website)
- City of Naples settles federal fair housing lawsuit with group that helps homeless veterans. (Naples Daily News, 7/16/21)
Marco Island City Council
City of Marco Island residents are represented by seven elected city councilors.
Meet the Marco Island City Council
The Marco Island City Council held regular and special meetings on Jul. 19. See agendas, minutes, and video replays here.
Council members considered the proposed $28.0 million 2021-22 operational budget and proposed changes to the city’s Noise Ordinance. In addition, they voted to send a revised Comprehensive Plan to the state (Councilor Joe Rola opposed) and unanimously adopted a tentative millage rate for City property taxes for the upcoming fiscal year at the rolled-back rate of 1.7088 mills. (Coastal Breeze News, 7/22/21; Marco Eagle, 7/26/21)
District School Board of Collier County
Collier County residents are represented by five elected School Board members.
Meet the School Board
FY 2022 Budget
The School Board heard a presentation of the District’s proposed fiscal year 2022 millage rates and budget by Assistant Superintendent: Financial Services Siobhan Fox.
After discussion, the Board unanimously approved the tentative budget totaling $1.284 billion, which amounts to $19,536 per full-time equivalent student (FTE). (School Board Tentative Budget Hearing agenda, 7/27/21)
The final fiscal 2021 budget approved last September totaled $1.212 billion, or $16,291 per FTE. (School Board Budget Hearing agenda, 9/8/20)
The Board also unanimously approved the recommended millages for the upcoming year totaling 4.8890 mills. That recommended rate is lower than the current year rate of 5.0160, and the amount by which it is lower is double the decrease that occurred this year.
According to the District’s presentation, at the recommended rates, a Homesteaded owner whose home had an assessed value this year of $350,000 would pay $17.31 less in school taxes next year; a non-Homesteaded owner’s taxes would be $6.20 lower.
That said, the recommended rate exceeds the rolled-back rate by 0.36 percent. But it does not make up for inflation.
Statewide Test Results
Statewide student test results announced recently showed the effect of a school year severely impacted by the pandemic. Approximately 80% of Florida students received in-person instruction either full- or part-time during the 2020-2021 school year. On average, districts with higher rates of in-person instruction generally fared better than districts with higher rates of “innovative instruction.” (FDOE Release, 7/29/21)
Thanks to the determination of Collier Superintendent Kamela Patton, teachers, administrators, staff, students, and parents, more than 90% of the District’s students were learning in-person on school campuses in the spring. (CCPS Release, 7/29/21)
Similar to the state, Collier County Public Schools (CCPS) experienced some decreases in year-over-year performance; some were minimal and none as significant as the state decreases. Despite the challenges, CCPS student performance in English Language Arts (ELA), math, science, and social studies was strong at every assessed grade level. And for the first time ever, the District outperformed the state in all 21 assessed areas. Importantly, CCPS gained in year-over-year performance in grades 4 and 5 ELA, Grade 8 math, and Grade 5 science. (CCPS 2021 Assessment Brief, 7/29/21)
To make up for the challenges of last year, CCPS is extending the school day by 30 minutes in some schools. Other initiatives will include interventions for students and more students in summer school programs than in previous years. (Naples Daily News, 7/13/21; WINK News, 7/30/21)
Health Precaution Strategies Moving Forward
With students returning to the classrooms on Aug. 10, School Board members heard a presentation about the health precautions that will be put in place. The District plans to continue with masks as an option, encourage masks for those who are unvaccinated, and wearing masks on school buses. Hand sanitizer, hand-washing, and social distancing are also major parts of the plan. (CCPS Presentation, 7/27/21)
In view of the optional nature of mask-wearing, school leaders are aware of the possibility of bullying. The District does not tolerate bullying of any kind. It says it already has a plan to address not only mask diversity but accepting everyone for who they are. (WINK News, 7/28/21)
The Superintendent earned 3.97 out of a maximum 4.0 points on her FY 2021 evaluation, a superior result.
Each year, School Board members complete a written evaluation of the Superintendent based on objectives aligned to the Strategic Plan, superintendent-specific goals, and professional standards. At the School Board meeting, the results of the evaluation were presented, discussed, and unanimously adopted. (Superintendent’s Evaluation, July 2021)
Other Local Government Entities
“Visionary thinking.” That’s how one environmental leader described an idea of Charlette Roman, former Marco Island City Council vice-chair who now chairs the Big Cypress Basin and sits on the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board. Her big idea led to the initial “flipping of the switch” on the largest of three pumps in the Picayune Strand Restoration Project that will pump water over 55,000 acres of depleted Everglades wetlands. (Coastal Breeze News, 7/22/21)
Collier Mosquito Control District scientists have detected West Nile virus in local mosquitoes in Ave Maria, Immokalee, and northern Golden Gate Estates. They discovered the virus Jul. 22 while testing mosquitoes in the District’s laboratory — a process conducted weekly. (CMCD Blog, 7/23/21)
Parts of Collier County are represented in the Florida House of Representatives by Reps. Bob Rommel (District 106), Lauren Melo (District 80), and David Borrero (District 105).
All of Collier County is represented in the Florida Senate by Sen. Kathleen Passidomo (District 28).
Find Your State Representative
Everglades City’s troubled sewage treatment plant will be replaced after years of neglect. The $4.3 million cost will be borne by the state, thanks to efforts by Sen. Kathleen Passidomo. (Naples Daily News, 7/21/21)
U.S. House of Representatives
Parts of Collier County are represented in the Florida House of Representatives by Mario Diaz-Balart (District 25) and Byron Donalds (District 19).
Find Your Congressman
Key Votes in the U.S. House
HR 2668 — Consumer Protection and Recovery Act — Authorizes the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to seek monetary relief in federal court from businesses that engage in unlawful commercial practices such as false advertising, consumer fraud, and anticompetitive conduct.
Diaz-Balart — Nay; Donalds — Not Voting
Passed — 221–205 on 7/20/21
HR 2467 — PFAS Action Act of 2021 — Establishes requirements and incentives to limit the use of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly referred to as PFAS, and remediate PFAS in the environment.
Diaz-Balart — Nay; Donalds — Nay
Passed — 241–183 on 7/21/21
HR 3985 — Averting Loss of Life and Injury by Expediting SIVs Act of 2021 — Increases the number of special immigrant visas available to qualified Afghan nationals who worked for the U.S. government or the NATO missions in Afghanistan; relaxes certain qualifications for such visas.
Diaz-Balart — Yea; Donalds — Yea
Passed — 407–16 on 7/22/21
HR 3237 — Emergency Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 — Provides $1.9 billion in FY2021 emergency supplemental appropriations for the legislative branch and federal agencies to respond to the attack on the U.S. Capitol Complex that occurred on January 6, 2021.
Diaz-Balart — Yea; Donalds — Yea
Passed — 416–11 on 7/29/21
District 25: Mario Diaz-Balart in the News
- Mario Díaz-Balart holds more than $1M in cash as he faces challenge from Adam Gentle. Florida Politics, 7/19/21
- Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart: Cuban government practices “slave labor” and “human trafficking,” not socialism. Real Clear Politics, 7/23/21
District 19: Byron Donalds in the News
- Byron Donalds raises eye-popping $1.1M in a single quarter. Florida Politics, 7/12/21
- Rep. Donalds appointed to new Congressional Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth. Press Release, 7/20/21
- Republican lawmaker defends fact he isn’t getting vaccinated. Cuomo Prime Time (CNN), 7/27/21
- Congressman Donalds announces a press conference on Critical Race Theory in Naples. Florida State Representative Bob Rommel and Collier County Commissioner Bill McDaniel will also be joining Rep. Donalds in this effort. Press Release, 7/29/21
Local news reported in this post is by: Jake Allen, Frank Gluck, Rachel Fradette, Liz Freeman, Chad Gillis, Harriet Howard Heithaus, Laura Layden, Omar Rodriguez Ortiz, Karl Schneider and Lance Shearer (Naples Daily News/The News-Press/Marco Eagle); Scott H. Shook, Steve Stefanides (Coastal Breeze News); Tim Aten (Gulfshore Business; Tim Aten Knows); Rachel Cox-Rosen, Sara Girard, Michael Hudak, Zach Oliveri, and Taylor Smith (WINK News); and Julie Glenn (WGCU News)
That’s it for this month’s news for Collier County voters. Next up: July News for Florida Voters. Stay tuned!