Again in January, the Board of County Commissioners remained focused on how to plan for and manage the county’s exploding growth, pay for years of backlogged infrastructure repairs, and maintain our quality of life.
Its 4–1 vote to approve a tentative sales-tax plan was the most significant local news this month, so in this post, I’ll begin my review of local news with that.
Then, I’ll share news from the Naples and Marco Island City Councils and the Collier County schools and School Board.
But first, I’ll review some of the local government offices that will be on our ballot this year and the candidates running to-date.
As always, my hope is that by reading these monthly posts, you’ll be a more informed voter come Election Day.
The 2018 elections
Two seats on the Board of Collier County Commissioners will be on the ballot this year: District 2, currently held by Andy Solis, and District 4, currently held by Penny Taylor. Find your Commission District here. At this time, neither candidate has a challenger.
Three seats on the Collier County School Board will be on the ballot on August 28: District 1, currently held by Kelly Lichter; District 3, currently held by Erika Donalds, and District 5, currently held by Roy Terry. School Board elections are non-partisan and at-large, meaning all Collier voters vote for all Board seats, regardless of their party affiliation or where they live.
Of the School Board incumbents, only Roy Terry has filed to run for re-election. He is being challenged by Mary Ellen Cash. Cash is aligned with the Florida Citizens’ Alliance, last year objecting to “objectionable materials in curriculum,” claiming to have “witnessed students being taught evolution as a fact of creation rather than a theory.”
One School Board candidate has filed to run in District 1. As reported this month:
Naples City Council elections are February 6. See my endorsements here. In the news this month:
- Naples City Council candidates talk issues at LWV forum. They differed on the approach to affordable housing, a proposed local ethics commission and the need for an $8.6 million firehouse, but agreed to rein in government spending. Naples Daily News
- Related video: “If you could change a decision this Council has made, what would it be? Naples Daily News
The proposed one-cent county sales tax
It is now likely that a sales tax referendum will be on our November ballot. What projects will be funded with the revenue stream and what provisions will exist to convince the necessary 60 percent of Collier voters to vote for it must be finalized by June.
- Collier commissioners lay out spending plan for $420M sales tax. Commissioner Bill McDaniel, who said he opposes the sales tax hike unless commissioners pass an equal reduction in property taxes, cast the lone vote against the plan. Naples Daily News
- Related Editorial: 2018 priorities: Paying for needed public projects. Progress toward catching up on a backlog of infrastructure is one of seven community priorities the Naples Daily News editorial board has identified for 2018. Naples Daily News
- Related Editorial: Learn more about sales tax ideas before deciding. Collier Commissioners need to define the line between promising voters exactly which projects will be done with the proceeds over 7 years and simultaneously building in flexibility in case some ideas don’t pan out as anticipated. Naples Daily News
If you have views on the tax itself or how the funds should be prioritized, be sure to let your Commissioner know!
Other county news
- Arthrex headquarters expansion among top happenings in business for 2018. In addition, other major developments will march forward in the county this year, from new shopping centers to new towns. Naples Daily News
- Collier considers cap on development in rural areas around Immokalee, Ave Maria. A fight looms over how and where developers could build villages on swaths of farmland and fields around Immokalee and Ave Maria now that Collier County has reopened its master plan for the area. Naples Daily News
- Collier speeds work to pave pitted limerock roads in Estates, E. Naples. The county next month will consider setting up a special taxing district for paving about 250 homeowner-owned private roads. Naples Daily News
- Collier commissioners push forward study of Clam Pass parking garage to improve beach access. The main hurdles for the garage would be the cost, an estimated $7 million to $10 million, and potential opposition from the Pelican Bay Foundation. Naples Daily News
- Related Editorial: If a Clam Pass parking garage is inevitable, let’s learn from history. At Vanderbilt Beach, Collier ended up with a smaller parking garage at double the cost following delays. Naples Daily News
- Collier clerk concerned over sewage, food bills following Hurricane Irma. Insufficient documentation of work performed resulted in sewage hauler being paid $300 thousand less than billed. Naples Daily News
- Collier business accelerators imperiled by reimbursement process snags. Invoice disputes have taken the County’s long-awaited incubator program to the point of collapse, just as it gets set to open in Immokalee. Naples Daily News
- Judge tosses boat speed zones challenge. The speed zone —without the requested slowdown for manatee protection — can now be enforced. Naples Daily News
- Brent Batten: One year in, emergency dispatch system seems a good call. In 2017, the first full year of data, there were 5,238 instances in which a unit from one jurisdiction was sent to another jurisdiction to provide aid. Naples Daily News
- Board of County Commissioners creates two new advisory committees. The newly reestablished Productivity Committee is seeking applications for seven open seats, and a newly formed Senior Advisory Committee is seeking applications for nine open seats. BCC
Collier Schools and the School Board
- Florida charter schools get final figures on local capital funding support. Five Collier County charter schools will get $4.4 million of local property tax money thanks to last year’s HB 7069. The constitutionality of these required payments is being challenged in the courts. Tampa Bay Times
- Collier schools report more than 9,000 students absent from disputed MLK Day classes. The district has agreed to work with the NAACP to formulate MLK-centered coursework on April 4, the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination. Naples Daily News
- Mother of gay teen critiques Collier School Board’s “anti-LGBTQ” decision. She says she was also taken aback by Board member Erika Donalds’ recent tweets, including one that began “Homosexuality is a sin just like any other sexual sin.” Naples Daily News
- Man accused of molesting girl at Naples school faces child porn possession charges. An after-school care counselor working for a company contracted by several Collier County schools and accused of sexually assaulting a minor in a school bathroom in November faces additional charges. Naples Daily News
- 124 sex offenders live near Collier public and charter schools. A provision in the minimum distance law exempts offenders if the crime was committed in Florida before Oct. 1, 2004, or if the offense occurred in another state before May 26, 2010. Naples Daily News
- Editorial Kick: In about two minutes at a Nov. 21 meeting, Collier County School Board members selected their chairman and vice chair for the coming year. That set off a chain reaction of exchanges later during that organizational meeting that still lingers. Naples Daily News
Naples City Council
- Naples City Council gives final OK to Baker Park In a 6–1 vote. They awarded a $10.6 million contract for Manhattan Construction to build the 15-acre park on the Gordon River. Naples Daily News
- Editorial Kick: Dizzying votes on approval of Naples Pier sale of beer and wine. All decisions ultimately ended up 4–3, but a majority of council members voted against the idea at one point or another. Naples Daily News
- Florida ethics panel dismisses case vs. Councilman Sam Saad. Councilwoman Linda Penniman had alleged that he violated state ethics laws by voting to approve a controversial real estate development. Naples Daily News
- Seeking public input on Naples improvement projects. A series of public forums in February offer opportunities for community input. By Ellen Seigel, Naples City Councilwoman, via Naples Daily News
Marco Island City Council
- Marco Planning Board finally finishes LDC update … for now. They think they’ve addressed all the “glitches” in the Land Development Code, but more will probably appear after the City Council updates the island’s comprehensive plan, which is almost 10 years old. Naples Daily News
- Marco council meeting draws concerned residents. Most spoke against creating parking spaces along Bayside Court, a residential street near South Seas condominiums, citing concerns about traffic, safety and noise. Naples Daily News
That does it for January. Thanks for your interest in being an informed voter. See you next month!