Collier County & Local News for January 2021

Alfie Oakes’ Legal Challenges to the Mask Orders

Alfie Oakes, owner of the Oakes Farms, Food & Thought, and Seed to Table businesses in Collier County, sued the County in federal court, claiming its mask ordinance is unconstitutional and invalid. He also challenged Collier County Code Enforcement’s efforts to enforce the mandate. And he sued the Lee County School District, which cancelled his contract to supply produce for students, for failure to produce public records he requested.

In the federal case challenging Collier County’s mask ordinance:

In the Lee County suit, a state court judge ruled against the school district for its lack of response to public information requests. In the Code Enforcement suit, the special magistrate claimed she lacked jurisdiction; the County is challenging that ruling.

Board of County Commissioners

Lee County’s Requested Changes to Big Cypress Basin (BCB) Boundary

Should Collier County support proposed legislation that would expand the Big Cypress Basin and its governing board? When discussed at the BCC’s January 12 meeting, Commissioners Andy Solis and Rick LoCastro expressed concerns. Chairman Penny Taylor offered to explore the matter and bring it back for discussion at the February 9 BCC meeting. Agenda; PowerPoint Presentation; Study Report

What is the Big Cypress Basin?

The Big Cypress Basin (BCB) is one of two major watershed basins within the South Florida Water Management District’s 16-county region. It currently includes Collier County and part of Monroe County.

The BCB Board and Service Center manage a network of canals, water control structures and back pumps that provide flood control in the Basin during the wet season and protect regional water supplies and environmental resources from over-drainage in the dry season.

The BCB Board, which is appointed by the Governor and approved by the Florida Senate, sets regional policy, budget and millage rates for the basin’s flood protection efforts within its boundaries.

What is being proposed, and why?

Lee County is currently within the Okeechobee Basin. Believing that more funding would be available to it in the future if part of southern Lee County were in the BCB, Lee County, the City of Bonita Springs, and the Village of Estero got the Legislature to require a study of the boundary of the BCB and recommend any scientifically supported changes.

The result, as they hoped, was a recommendation to expand the boundary to incorporate some of southern Lee County. The boundary change requires legislative approval, and a proposal to that effect is pending committee consideration in Tallahassee. (SB 406/ HB 209)

Big Cypress Basin current and proposed boundaries

What are the issues?

While the Collier BCC is not against the concept of expanding the basin, there are questions as to governance changes that might occur as the result of the addition of members from Lee County.

Other County Government News

The Collier County Arts and Culture Strategic Plan seeks to evaluate, establish, and promote Collier County as an arts and culture destination. It is the result of a multi-year effort of Collier County Government, the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention and Visitors Bureau, and The United Arts Council. In October, the Board of County Commissioners was asked to appoint the United Arts Council to administer the Plan. That meeting did not go well. This month:

Separately, Collier County operates a “Beach Bus” to alleviate in-season parking shortages at county beaches. Different routes and schedules have been tried in an effort to increase its use. Will this year see better results?

City of Naples

In 1994, the City of Naples Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) was established to “guide private and public initiatives for creating economic development, improve physical characteristics, encourage investment in Downtown Naples, improve the quality of life for residents, and establish a framework for the proper evolution of the CRA District.” This month, in recognition of the lack of affordable housing in the City:

The City’s partnership with Gulfshore Playhouse to build another parking garage in the City is another CRA project. Now:

And in other City Government news:

City of Marco Island

Two City of Marco Island officials were suspended for 30-days without pay for their roles in misuse of the county’s Eventbrite COVID-19 vaccine registration system.

Two-term Marco Island City Councilor Victor Rios unexpectedly resigned in October “for personal reasons.” Now, Rios, who was also President of the Belize Condominium Association Board of Directors, has been charged with fraud in connection with the 2019 Condo Board election and:

Collier County Public Schools

The Florida Department of Education released high school graduation rates for the class of 2020 last month. CCPS’s rate was 92.2%, an increase of 19.3 percentage points since 2011 and an increase of 0.3 percentage points compared to 2019. It is the highest rate in CCPS history.

A CCPS plan to help students with disabilities develop life skills came a step closer to reality this month when the Naples City Council unanimously approved a zoning change to enable the plan to proceed:

Also, this month, CCPS’s newest public charter school, Naples Classical Academy, closed on its purchase of Fogg’s Nursery at 10270 Immokalee Road, just east of Collier Boulevard. The school expects to open with 800 students in August.

Coronavirus in the Schools

Florida parents have full choice about whether their child receives in-school or virtual instruction, but Florida schools are open for the second semester that started January 19.

Other Local Elected Bodies

Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller

This month, the Clerk’s Office continued its efforts to educate the public about the services it offers through periodic news releases and monthly newsletters.

Also, this month, acrimony continued over the contested August primary election in which Clerk Crystal Kinzel defeated former Clerk’s Office employee James Molenaar. This month:

Supervisor of Elections

Florida’s Supervisors of Elections are required by state law to conduct periodic maintenance of the voter registration lists. If a Supervisor receives change-of-address information about any of its registered voters, she must change the registration records to reflect the new address and must send the voter an address change notice. Voters who receive an address confirmation request are encouraged to respond to it promptly. This month:

Our State Legislators

District 28: Sen. Kathleen Passidomo

District 106: Rep. Bob Rommel

District 80: Rep. Lauren Melo

District 105: Rep. David Borrero

Our U.S. Representatives

Key Votes In the U.S. House

To object to certification of electoral college votes
Diaz-Balart — YEA; Donalds — YEA
Roll Call 11, 1/7/21

To activate section 4 of the 25th amendment to declare President Trump incapable of executing duties of his office…
Diaz-Balart — NAY; Donalds — NAY
H. RES. 38, 1/12/21

To impeach President Trump
Diaz-Balart — NAY; Donalds — NAY
H. RES. 24, 1/13/2

To remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committee assignments
Diaz-Balart — YEA; Donalds — NAY
H. RES. 72, 2/4/21

To approve budget package with COVID-19 relief plan
Diaz-Balart — NAY; Donalds — NAY
H. RES. 101, 2/5/21

District 25: Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart

District 19: Rep. Byron Donalds

That’s it for January government news for Collier County voters. Have a safe February!

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