Collier County & Local News for June 2021

Collier County and Local News Recap - June 2021

Board of County Commissioners

Collier County residents are represented by one of five elected county commissioners.
Find Your County Commissioner

The BCC considered several issues of significance at its meetings on June 8 and 22. It also held a FY 2022 budget workshop on June 24. See agendas here, minutes here, and video replays here.

Proposed Sanctuary County Ordinance

An ordinance to establish Collier County as a Bill of Rights Sanctuary County was introduced this month by Commissioner Bill McDaniel. A motion to move forward with the ordinance and advertise it, as required before the final vote, was narrowly passed by commissioners on June 22. A final decision is expected at their next meeting on July 13. (via Naples Daily News)

“The Collier County Board of County Commissioners has growing concerns over the federal government’s increasing encroachment on the rights and privileges of its citizens,” the ordinance reads. And “Collier County has the right to be free from the commanding hand of the federal government and has the right to refuse to cooperate with federal government officials in response to unconstitutional federal government measures….”

Collier is one of many counties around the country that are considering this ordinance. A Google search turned up similar efforts in Ohio, Oregon, Missouri, Arkansas, and more.

The proposed Collier ordinance prohibits any department, employee, or official of Collier County from intentionally enforcing any “unlawful act” from the federal government. It also prohibits the use of county assets to engage in the enforcement or investigation of an “unlawful act.”

The ordinance defines an “unlawful act” as any federal act that violates or unreasonably restricts an individual’s constitutional rights. Anyone in the county accused of violating the ordinance could be sued in circuit court, and if found guilty, would be punishable in accordance with the Collier County Code of Ordinances.

About 25 people spoke in favor of the ordinance during public comments, including U.S. Congressman Byron Donalds, a representative from state Rep. Bob Rommel’s office and Collier Sheriff Kevin Rambosk. Donalds, Rommel and Rambosk all represent residents of Collier County.

According to the Naples Daily News, McDaniel said the ordinance isn’t a political issue, but rather something “we can do just as an additional step to offer assurances to our community [that] we are going to support their God-given rights.” Donalds said he supports the ordinance as he has seen efforts to strip elements of the Bill of Rights. And Rambosk said that as sheriff he has a duty to protect the constitutional rights of all persons and that he is “going to take this ordinance to the Florida Sheriff’s Association and recommend that they consider supporting it as well.”

Commissioners Burt Saunders and Andy Solis raised questions about who would decide the federal government had done something unconstitutional and how that determination would be made. County Attorney Jeff Klatzkow said there will be unintended consequences of the ordinance if it is ultimately approved as it is written.

No one from the public spoke against the ordinance at the meeting, perhaps due to insufficient public notice. After news of the meeting was reported by local media, Naples blogger David Silverberg wrote that the ordinance is “a license for lawlessness” that “would erode the county’s rule of law and equal administration of justice.” (The Paradise Progressive)

Ultimately, Saunders, LoCastro and McDaniel voted to move the ordinance forward, although Saunders said his support was not an indication of how he would vote on the final version. Commission Chairwoman Penny Taylor and Commissioner Andy Solis were opposed.

Watch the video replay of the BCC’s discussion here; read Collier commissioners set to vote on Bill of Rights Sanctuary County ordinance. Naples Daily News, 6/23/21

Development in Eastern Collier County

Longwater and Bellmar Villages

As we wrote last month, the BCC had deferred its decision on the proposed rural Villages of Longwater and Bellmar after a marathon hearing that lasted into the evening. Commissioners Burt Saunders and Andy Solis had characterized votes on these villages as among the most important the commissioners will ever make, as they will shape the future of growth out east, according to the Naples Daily News.

This month, the Board approved the highly controversial projects, and a proposed adjoining town of Big Cypress, at least in concept. Commission Chairwoman Penny Taylor was the lone dissenter, voting no three times.

In voting against the two villages, Commission Chairwoman Taylor said: “It does not create economic opportunity, and they will increase the demands on our transportation system. And it will also put an unnecessary burden on our taxpayers.” She said the town proposal appeared to be an “afterthought.”

Rivergrass Village

Also, this month, a written ruling shed more light on why a Collier circuit judge sided last month against the Conservancy of Southwest Florida in its challenge of the Rivergrass Village. Specifically, according to the Naples Daily News, Judge Hugh Hayes was unimpressed with the Conservancy’s expert witnesses, while finding the counterpoints and other testimony offered by landowner Collier Enterprises’ lead planner Robert Mulhere to be clear, effective, and convincing. The Conservancy last month said it planned to appeal the judge’s decision to the Second Circuit.

Great Wolf Lodge and Water Park

In other news about development in eastern Collier County, the BCC approved $15 million in financial incentives to solidify plans for a Great Wolf Lodge and water park to be built near the county’s new amateur sports stadium, near Collier Boulevard and I-75. The vote caps off months of negotiations about the multimillion-dollar public investment. Commissioner Rick LoCastro cast the sole dissenting vote, calling the incentive an expensive and unnecessary “gift.” (Naples Daily News)

Water

In Other News


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 held regular meetings on June 1,2 and 16 and a workshop on June 14. See agendas, minutes, and video replays here.

Proposed Abortion Ban

In recent months, supporters of a City abortion ban have protested at City Hall multiple times and have taken over the public comment section of council meetings, demanding council members put a proposed anti-abortion ordinance on the agenda. (Naples Daily News)

The proposed ordinance would declare Naples, Florida, to be a Sanctuary City for the Unborn, and make it unlawful for anyone to procure, aid or perform an abortion at any stage of pregnancy, according to a draft submitted to council in March by Bill Oppenheimer, president of Action for Life Inc., an anti-abortion organization.

Mayor Teresa Heitmann, Vice Mayor Terry Hutchison and Councilman Ted Blankenship support putting the ordinance on the agenda, while councilmen Ray Christman, Paul Perry and Gary Price do not. Earlier in the year, Councilman Mike McCabe said, “I don’t think that is a local issue we should deal with.” (Naples Daily News)

Update: Mayor Faces Ethics Charges

We wrote last month that Naples Mayor Teresa Heitmann was accused of abuse of power and other acts in an ethics complaint filed by Brian Dye, the city’s director of technology services with the Florida Commission on Ethics dated May 17. We also wrote that former Mayor Bill Barnett filed a complaint with the Naples ethics commission and asked City Council to have the city ethics commission investigate. Heitmann denied the claims.

On June 30, the Naples Daily News reported that the Naples ethics commission voted to dismiss Barnett’s complaint. (Naples Daily News)

Earlier this month, the Naples Daily News reported that in late March, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement closed an investigation into Heitmann’s campaign finances after finding no evidence to warrant further inquiry. Heitmann told the Naples Daily News she was not aware of the investigation and said she did not violate campaign finance laws. (Naples Daily News)

Update: Naples Beach Hotel Redevelopment

Last month, we recapped some of the many challenges by Naples residents to The Athens Groups’s plans to redevelop the Naples Beach Hotel property.

This month, we learned that the sale of the property to The Athens Group did not close as planned due to a last-minute legal challenge and claim from a nearby resident. Gregory Myers, who lives on Gulf Shore Boulevard, has sued both the buyers and the sellers of the property, through their affiliates, alleging that his private property rights have been violated. (Naples Daily News)

Meanwhile, the City’s Design Review Board enthusiastically signed off on the motif for a new seven-story resort over parking with an enhanced HB’s restaurant and sunset bar, and a new “see and be seen” dining venue. It also approved the appearance of commercial buildings on the other side of the road and alterations to the current conference center. (Naples Daily News)

2022 City Council Elections

In February 2022, the three seats on the Naples City Council held by Ray Christman, Terry Hutchison and Gary Price will be on the ballot for City voters.

To date:

Information about the candidates and their filing forms can be found at the City Clerk’s web page.

In Other News


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 meetings on June 7 and 21. See agendas, minutes, and video replays here.

On June 7, councilors approved a resolution authorizing the execution of a memorandum of understanding regarding opioid litigation, awarded the annual street resurfacing project contract to the lowest bidder, and authorized the City Manager to enter into an agreement to conduct an organization-wide employee engagement survey. They also considered the City Manager’s request for a waiver of the City Manager residency requirement; after discussion, he withdrew his request. (Coastal Breeze News)

On June 21, councilors held contract negotiations with the police union in a closed session and a workshop on the city’s capital budget. At the regular council meeting, they accepted $50,000 from the Community Foundation of Collier County earmarked for trees at Veterans’ Community Park and a distribution of excess funds from the nonprofit Lee County Electric Cooperative, unanimously approved a series of construction-related items, and heard from Collier County Commission vice chairman Andy Solis on the upcoming mental health facility to adjoin the David Lawrence Center. Coastal Breeze News

They also discussed the legality of renting residences on the island. Council is scheduled to hear a staff report on the issue on July 19 and consider further action “after the summer.”

Also during the month, the city took delivery of a new 32-foot police marine unit equipped with state-of-the-art equipment.


District School Board of Collier County

Collier County residents are represented by five elected School Board members.
Meet the School Board

The Collier County School Board held a regularly scheduled meeting on June 8 and special meetings on June 7 and 14 dealing with challenges to textbooks it had approved in April. See agendas here and video archive here.

At the regular meeting, after hearing comments from about 50 public speakers, the Board voted unanimously to make masks optional in the district starting this summer and continuing into the 2021-22 school year. It also said in a statement that neither it nor the Superintendent would mandate COVID-19 vaccination of students. (Naples Daily News)

Textbook Challenge

At the June 7 special meeting, the Board heard objections to previously adopted K-5 English Language Arts (ELA) instructional materials and textbooks. Objectors claimed the District is pushing a liberal agenda onto students and that it will be spending millions of dollars on textbooks that focus on Critical Race Theory (CRT). (WINK News)

To address concerns, the board and District released a statement that “the School Board and the Superintendent do not support the teaching of Critical Race Theory in its classrooms, and CRT is not and will not be part of the District curriculum and teaching and learning framework.”

In addition, Board Chairman Erick Carter sent a letter to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), the textbook publisher, asking it to confirm “that the K-5 ELA instructional materials do not contain or imply CRT in them” and that such viewpoints will not be imbedded in the K-5 ELA textbooks.

After receiving the requested confirmation and assurances from HMH, the Board at the June 14 meeting voted unanimously to deny the objections and affirmed the textbook adoptions made in April.

3rd Grade Test Results

This month, the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) released 3rd grade Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) English Language Arts results for schools across the state. (FDOE)

Sixty percent of CCPS students scored a level 3 or above, compared with 54 percent of students statewide. “Never in the last decade has CCPS performed 6 points higher than the state ELA average for Grade 3, a crucial grade for students to become proficient readers,” said Superintendent Kamela Patton in a statement. “Despite the unique challenges of the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our District maintained focus and continues to excel in academic achievement,” she said. (CCPS)

District Shuffles Leadership

Twenty Collier County schools will have new leaders this upcoming school year, the most in recent years. More than a dozen returning principals will transfer to new positions, five principals were promoted from other roles, and one outside principal will join the district. The appointments and promotions come as students and teachers prepare to return on Aug. 10 after a year of adjustments and uprooting due to the pandemic. (Naples Daily News)


Collier Sheriff

All county residents are represented by an elected Sheriff.
Meet the Collier Sheriff

The Collier County Sheriff’s Office, the Julian Lee Keen Foundation and Collier County Public Schools have partnered in a new youth mentoring program in Immokalee. The goal of the program is to promote positive awareness of law enforcement in underserved areas. (Collier Sheriff News Release, 6/14/21)


Collier Supervisor of Elections

All county residents are represented by an elected Supervisor of Elections.
Meet the Collier Supervisor of Elections

The Collier County Supervisor of Elections office has updated its web address to www.CollierVotes.gov and is encouraging the public to visit, bookmark and share this change.

“With so much misinformation about elections and voting, this change sends a clear message that CollierVotes.gov is THE trusted source for finding accurate information about future elections,” Supervisor of Elections Jennifer J. Edwards said in a news release.


Florida Legislature

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

This month, Naples resident Sen. Kathleen Passidomo met with the Southwest Florida Community Advisory Board this week for an hour to talk about where she stands on key issues in the state. She is currently on the path to be the next President of the Florida Senate. Read excerpts of the interview here. (Naples Daily News; The News-Press)


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 3325 — To award four congressional gold medals to the United States Capitol Police and those who protected the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Diaz-Balart — Yea; Donalds — Yea
Passed — 406/21 on 6/15/21

S 475 — Juneteenth National Independence Day Act — Establishes Juneteenth National Independence Day, June 19, as a legal public holiday.
Diaz-Balart — Yea; Donalds — Yea
Passed — 415/14 on 6/16/21

HR 1187 — Corporate Governance Improvement and Investor Protection Act — Requires an issuer of securities to annually disclose to shareholders certain environmental, social, and governance metrics and their connection to the long-term business strategy of the issuer.
Diaz-Balart — Nay; Donalds — Nay
Passed — 215/214 on 6/15/2

HR 256 — To repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002
Diaz-Balart — Nay; Donalds — Yea
Passed — 268/161 on 6/17/21

HR 239 — Equal Access to Contraception for Veterans Act — Prohibits the Department of Veterans Affairs from requiring payment from a veteran for any contraceptive item that is required to be covered by health insurance plans without a cost-sharing requirement.
Diaz-Balart — Nay; Donalds — Nay
Passed — 245/181 on 6/24/21

HR 2225 — National Science Foundation for the Future Act — Reauthorizes the National Science Foundation (NSF) through FY2026 and authorizes programs and activities at the NSF.
Diaz-Balart — Yea; Donalds — Nay
Passed 345/67 on 6/28/21

HR 3593 — Department of Energy Science for the Future Act — Provides guidance for and investment in the research and development activities of the Department of Energy Office of Science, and for other purposes.
Diaz-Balart — Yea; Donalds — Nay
Passed — 351/68 on 6/28/17

HR 391 — Global Health Security Act of 2021 — Directs the President to create the Global Health Security Agenda Interagency Review Council to implement the Global Health Security Agenda, an initiative launched by nearly 30 nations to address global infectious disease threats.
Diaz-Balart — Yea; Donalds — Nay
Passed — 307/112 on 6/28/21


District 19: Byron Donalds in the News


Local news reported in this post is by: Jake Allen, Andrew Atkins, Brittany Carloni, Rachel Fradette, Chad Gillis, Harriet Howard Heithaus, Laura Layden, Omar Rodriguez Ortiz, Lance Shearer and Karl Schneider (Naples Daily News/The News-Press/Marco Eagle); Steve Stefanides (Coastal Breeze News); Tim Aten (Gulfshore Business); David Silverberg (The Paradise Progressive); Rachel Cox-Rosen and Michael Hudak (WINK News); and Julie Glenn (WGCU News).


That’s it for this month’s news for Collier County voters. Next up: June News for Florida Voters. Stay tuned!

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