Monday, July 30, 2012

My choice for District 3 Commissioner


I live in Collier County Commission District 3, whose next commissioner will be decided in the August 14 primary.  Candidates are incumbent Tom Henning and challenger Bill McDaniel, both Republicans.  See “Make an Informed Choice for County Commissioner” for some background.

My choice is based on two things: 1. how well the candidate did or will represent my community (Olde Cypress) before the Board of County Commissioners (BCC), and 2. how well the candidate did or will represent my interests on county-wide matters before the BCC.

With respect to the first, I have no personal experience, but from what I hear from others, our community has been satisfied with Tom Henning as our commissioner.  It’s impossible to know how McDaniel would represent our issues, but I did find it curious that his campaign mailer states – twice – “Cypress Woods, Quail Creek and Longshore Lakes can count on Bill McDaniel.”  What about Olde Cypress, Saturnia Lakes, the Vineyards, Island Walk, and other communities in District 3?

With respect to the second, I totally agree with Tom Henning’s position on two county issues of great importance to me:

County vs Clerk Lawsuit -- Henning was the only commissioner to oppose the County’s senseless series of lawsuits challenging Clerk of Courts Dwight Brock’s right to audit county expenditures.  The state Supreme Court ultimately found in Brock’s favor. What a waste of our taxpayer dollars.  Read more... 

Impact Fee Moratorium -- An impact fee is a fee imposed by a local government on a new or proposed development project to pay for all or a portion of the costs of providing public services to the new development, such as the construction or needed expansion of roads, street lighting, schools and other offsite capital improvements.

Both the League of Women Voters at its Candidate Forum and the Collier Building Industry Association in its survey by asked the BCC candidates, “Do you support a moratorium on commercial impact fees?”

Henning says no, McDaniel says yes. McDaniel wants to “explore the possibility of placing a temporary moratorium on impact fees” with the goal of attracting new business to the community.[1]  In fact, all three challengers (Cosgrove, McDaniel and Nance) support an impact fee moratorium, and all three incumbents (Fiala, Henning and Coletta) oppose it.  Henning said impact fee moratoria have been tried in other counties and didn’t achieve the desired result.  Fiala pointed out that Collier’s impact fees have already been cut by 50%, and eliminated on buildings two years old or older. 

Fiala and Coletta both pointed out that if new development is to take place in an area where infrastructure is needed, someone will wind up paying for it – if not the developer, then the rest of Collier County taxpayers. I agree. Growth should pay for growth.

Naples Daily News Endorsements
The Naples Daily News criticized Henning for having “disappointed too often.”  They said, “His blockage of follow-through on the Immokalee Master Plan[2] and his flawed, incomplete filings of state-mandated financial disclosure reports[3] are the latest examples of official conduct that has served to erode the public trust.”  I don’t have an informed opinion on the Immokalee Master Plan, and while the disclosure error is disturbing, it doesn’t appear to be egregious enough to cause me to change my vote.

In endorsing McDaniel, the Daily News said he “goes right to what's important — making government more efficient and user- and business-friendly. He speaks from experience in building, real estate, rock-sand mining and county advisory boards.”  But Henning supports making government more business-friendly, too, and that came through loud and clear in his Naples Daily News Editorial Board interview. (For McDaniel’s Editorial Board interview, click here.)

Greater Naples Better Government Committee Endorsements
The bi-partisan GNBGC was unable to reach agreement on an endorsement for the District 3 race.  In a statement they said, “Although the Board felt both incumbent Tom Henning and his Republican challenger Bill McDaniel to be viable candidates, neither obtained the required 60% vote ... the Board required for endorsement.”

My choice
I plan to vote for Tom Henning, for the reasons stated.  This choice will be controversial, surprising, and perhaps disappointing to some of my readers.  I’d be very interested in any input that might change my mind.



[1]Jobs, Jobs, Jobs: Commission Candidates Sound Off on How to Attract Them,” by Katherine Albers, Naples Daily News, 7/9/12
[2] See, for example, “Henning: I Would Vote No on Immokalee Master Plan,” by Katherine Albers, Naples Daily News, 3/13/12
[3] See, for example, “Collier commissioner Henning says he wasn't trying to hide anything in his financial disclosures," by Katherine Albers, Naples Daily News, 4/11/12

Friday, July 27, 2012

More of my Republican primary choices


In previous posts, I explained my support for Dwight Brock for Clerk of the Circuit Court and Connie Mack for US Senator.  In next week’s post, I’ll write about my choice for District 3 County Commissioner (Henning or McDaniel).  In this post, I’ll share how I’ll be voting in the rest of the races on my ballot, and why.

Kevin Rambosk
Sheriff – Kevin Rambosk (incumbent)
After 21 years as a City of Naples police officer and four years as Naples City Manager,Rambosk joined the Collier County Sheriff’s department in 2003 and served in various positions before being elected Sheriff in 2008. He is now running for his second term.

As a seven-year member of the League of Women Voters of Collier County and it’s Justice Committee, I’ve had several opportunities to hear Sheriff Rambosk speak in both large and small group settings, and I’ve been impressed with his professionalism, calm demeanor and commitment to excellence.  I see no reason for a change and have long known Rambosk would have my vote. 

From the Naples Daily News endorsement
Rambosk remains the real deal — a law enforcement officer who leads by example and connects with constituents. He is consistent — stressing the importance of community policing, the public's crime tips and staff professionalism. He is consistent as well with pushing the envelope of technology to help track crime and keep citizens safe.  Our crime rates show it's all clicking.  The Sheriff's Office continues to be a leader nationally in teamwork with federal authorities to process and deport illegals who are arrested for other offenses.  In Southwest Florida these days, the Collier County Sheriff's Office ranks as a model agency.  Rambosk soundly defeated the same GOP opponent, Victor Ortino, four years ago and stands to do the same again.
Kevin Lilly
Property Appraiser - Kevin J. Lilly (Challenger)
I’ve had several opportunities to hear 20+year incumbent Property Appraiser Abe Skinner speak both to the League of Women Voters and in appearances before Greater Naples Leadership classes, but aside from reviewing our annual TRIM notice, I’ve not personally interacted him or his staff. 

Lilly worked in the Appraiser’s Office from 1995 to 2011, when he resigned his position as director of tax roll compliance to comply with the state's resign-to-run law.  From 1990 to 1995, he was an Economist in the Ad Valorem Tax Division of the Florida Department of Revenue in Tallahassee.  I was impressed with his answers to the League’s questions at the Candidate Forum, and with his bio.

From the Naples Daily News endorsement
Kevin Lilly sums up his best shot for being Collier County's property appraiser: He has the firsthand knowledge of the law and technology skills, the integrity and the energy to get the job done into the next era.  He also acknowledges the factor of age. He is 44 and the incumbent, Abe Skinner, is 81. Lilly says a change of leadership is inevitable and the timing is right.  We concur. He earns our endorsement — just as Skinner earns the community's appreciation for a job well and fairly done for more than 20 years....
Larry Ray
Tax Collector – Larry Ray (Incumbent)
Ray’s professional experience includes 23 years as officer in the US Army and 16 years on the management team of NCH Healthcare System where, according to his website, he oversaw the expansion of services to include the construction of  the Shick Heart Center, the Lutgert Cancer Center, the Whitaker Wellness Center and the expansion of  North Collier Hospital from 50 beds to over 300 beds, and managed over $150 million of capital improvements. 

In  2007, Ray joined the staff of the Collier County Tax Collector as Compliance Officer, responsible for insuring that the various departments and 12 satellite offices of the Tax Collector operated in accordance with accepted accounting procedures and Florida Statutes.   He was elected Tax Collector in November 2008; his predecessor Guy Carlton had decided to retire after 28 years in the position.

I’ve had several opportunities to hear both Carlton and Ray speak in large and small group settings, and I’ve been impressed with their knowledge and professionalism.  However I’ve had little interaction with the office or staff.

Steve Wagner, Ray’s challenger, spent 21 years with the US Air Force and 15 years as Area Manager of the Tax Collector’s Driver License Division.  Both candidates did well in the LWV Candidate Forum, but Ray’s background is stronger, and his management experience with NCH is a solid plus.

From the Naples Daily News endorsement:
Four years ago Ray picked up where his former boss, longtime tax collector Guy Carlton, left off — focusing on customer service. Few people enjoy paying taxes or renewing motor vehicle tags, for example. So the idea is to make it as pleasant and efficient as possible.  Ray has managed to do as much or more with fewer employees via smarter use of technology and cross-training. That's leadership.
Circuit and County Judges
I have no particular insight into the candidates in the four circuit judge and two county judge races on my ballot. From letters to the editor in the Naples Daily News, I learned that incumbent Circuit Judge Joseph Simpson’s Parkinson’s disease is an issue in the Group 26 race.  Read more here and here.  I’ve met Joe Foster, candidate in the Group 18 race, on several occasions, including in his challenge to County Commissioner Fred Coyle in the District 2 race in 2010. Joe would be a great County Commissioner and I hope he runs for that position again in 2014.

For the judge races, I’ll be following the Naples Daily News endorsements, which you can read here (circuit judges) and here (county judges).

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Simply Not So


To:  Letter to the Editor, Naples Daily News

Congressional candidate Paige Kreegel understated the severity of our uninsurance problem in your July 22, 2012 article by saying that “only 12 percent to 15 percent of people in the U.S. aren't insured.” In fact, the uninsured rate has been increasing since 2008, reaching 17.1% in 2011, according to Gallup.[1]

Kreegel suggested that “illegal immigrants” are a major if not the primary cause of the problem.  In fact, the majority of the uninsured (81%) are native or naturalized U.S. citizens, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.[2]  The number of uninsured who are here illegally is unknown.[3]

Kreegel was correct that “young people just out of college” make up a significant portion of the uninsured.  But blaming this on their considering themselves “invulnerable” is not fair.  More than half of uninsured young adults are families with at least one full-time worker, but their low incomes make it more difficult for them to afford coverage, according to Kaiser.[4]

Kreegel was also correct that people with pre-existing conditions make up a significant portion of the uninsured. But rather than listing it last among his causes, it would have been more appropriate to list it first.  According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, people with pre-existing conditions could be as much as 46 percent of the uninsured.[5]

The Affordable Care Act addresses these challenges.  Visit HealthCare.gov and get the facts.



[1] “More Americans Uninsured in 2011,” Gallup, 1/24/12 –http://www.gallup.com/poll/152162/americans-uninsured-2011.aspx
[2] “The Uninsured: A Primer” (http://www.kff.org/uninsured/7451.cfm), by The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, page 6.
[3] The ‘Real’ Uninsured, FactCheck.org, 6/24/09 http://www.factcheck.org/2009/06/the-real-uninsured/
[4] “The Uninsured: A Primer” (http://www.kff.org/uninsured/7451.cfm), by The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, page 5.
[5] “At Risk: Pre-Existing Conditions Could Affect 1 in 2 Americans,” http://www.healthcare.gov/law/resources/reports/preexisting.html

Friday, July 20, 2012

The lesser of evils for US Senate


All registered Florida Republicans have four candidates to choose from on August 14 in the US Senate primary:
·        Connie Mack
·        Mike McCalister
·        Marielena Stuart
·        Dave Weldon

As a Republican in Name Only (RINO), I began my research to decide who to vote for by seeking the least-bad alternative to front-runner Connie Mack.  You cannot be more surprised than I with my decision.  Here’s how it came to be: 

Knowing nothing about the challengers, I began with Project Vote Smart and the candidates’ campaign websites.  Here’s a sampling of what I found:

Mike McCalister
Mike McCalister – a businessman, university instructor and former US Army colonel living in Plant City, FL (Vote Smart).  From his website:

“Colonel McCalister is an unapologetic conservative. His number one priority will be to get Floridians back to work by cutting spending, reducing the deficit, lowering taxes, and protecting our products and proprietary technologies and investments against unfair foreign competition. Colonel McCalister believes that Barack Obama and Bill Nelson are destroying our country with their reckless policies, and is frustrated that political insiders have done little to combat high unemployment, rising gas prices, and falling home prices.”

The website showcases McCalister’s military record.  There are no positions on issues. The only listed endorsement is from the National Defense PAC, which is “dedicated to supporting the election of balanced-budget-committed Military Veterans to the U. S. Congress.”  A quick Google search revealed nothing particularly helpful or (otherwise) alarming. Too much of an unknown.  I moved on. 

Marielena Stuart
Marielena Stuart - a journalist and professional translator living in Ave Maria, FL (Vote Smart).  From her website:

“That's Right!  A Republican grassroots campaign website dedicated to providing a strong conservative message to save America from Socialism.”  “A record of fighting against Socialist corruption with ACTIONS... not just words.”

“While I was born and raised in Castro’s Cuba, my family’s roots are in Spain.  So it is a proud moment for me to see Spain wake up from its Socialist nightmare—as I reflect on the many years I spent suffering under Communism.  For Americans, the often-stealth corruption of Socialism will only be clearly understood once it is identified for what it truly is: Socialism is ‘Phase I’ of Communism.  In America, Socialism has been festering in our schools, as well as in our local, county and state governments.  Washington is awash in Socialism. ...”

“Over the last 40 years, the federal government has spent billions upon billions of tax dollars to promote population control at home and abroad. These anti-baby, anti-natalist programs have included abortion by both surgical and chemical means, as well as mass sterilization.  It is time for the federal government to end its “Stop the Stork” campaign initiated by the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare in the early 1970s, and replace it with pro-family and pro-natalist policies ...”

Stuart’s alarmist, anti-Socialist message is her main issue, proclaimed in big, bold letters on the Home page of her website.  “Anti-natalist programs??”  Scary.  I moved on. 

Dave Weldon
Dave Weldon – a physician and seven-term former US Congressman living in Melbourne, FL (Vote Smart).  From his website:

“The Authentic Conservative.”  Key Issues: Fiscal Responsibility, Jobs and the Economy, Repealing Obamacare, and 2nd Amendment Rights, followed by an alphabetical list of other issues.


“Dr. Weldon has a strong Congressional record of supporting family values and preserving traditional marriage.
·        Co-sponsored and voted for the Defense of Marriage Act.
·        Co-sponsored and voted for the House-passed constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman in 2004 and 2006, to protect traditional marriage from liberal attacks.
·        Will safeguard religious employers from being compelled to violate their values by President Obama’s liberal administration.
·        Opposed President Obama’s repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Obama’s repeal undermines military readiness, permits same-sex marriages on bases, and threatens liberty of conscience for military chaplains and soldiers who may hold different views on open homosexuality in the military workplace.
·        Opposes the marriage tax penalty.
·        Voted to prevent trafficking of child pornography.
·        Authored the permanent repeal of the death tax.
·        Strongly opposes abortion and has a 100% pro-life voting record.”


“President Obama, along with liberals in Congress like Senator Bill Nelson, is leading the charge in the largest government intrusion into health care in our nation’s history—and an unprecedented assault on the most fundamental right of them all: life.

To defeat Senator Nelson and peel back the big-government, anti-life policies of the Obama administration, we need a candidate with a proven track record of protecting the unborn. My 100% pro-life voting record and legislative accomplishments demonstrate that I am that candidate.”

The Endorsements Page showcases endorsements from noted conservatives Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, Eagle Forum PAC  Founder Phyllis Schlafly, and Florida Congressman Bill Posey, as well as the United Christians of Florida Political Action Committee and spokepersons for the Home School Legal Defense Association PAC and the Sportsmen’s & Animal Owners’ Voting Alliance.  It also lists The TampaBay Times.

************************
At this point in my research, I began to get alarmed.  It’s not just the conservative positions on social issues; I expected them.  It’s the exaggerated, near-hysterical language with which the positions are portrayed. 

But the TampaBay Times, a highly-respected, Pulitizer-Prize-winning publication and operator of PolitiFact.com, endorsed Weldon (“Senate primaries give voters few options”).  In part:

“Former U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon ... is a long shot, but he has more experience in Congress, a stronger record of accomplishments and a reputation as a more serious-minded lawmaker [than Connie Mack]. ... While taking pride in supporting efforts that balanced the federal budget during several years of Bill Clinton's presidency, Weldon also supported the Bush-era tax cuts, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Medicare prescription drug program that increased deficit spending. He is a social conservative as well as a fiscal conservative, and we disagreed with his efforts to have Congress intervene in the Terri Schiavo feeding tube issue in 2005. We also disagree with his opposition to abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research.

But Weldon is a thoughtful legislator who recognizes the serious challenges facing the nation and is willing to realistically confront them. He predictably opposes the Affordable Care Act but says some of its features are worth saving. He is clear-eyed about the federal deficit and the costs of entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare, and he is willing to consider raising some revenue and tax reform that closes loopholes as part of an overall package.

Still, according to the Naples Daily News, Weldon “was first elected to Congress in 1994 as a candidate of the religious right and abortion opponents. ... Weldon was a founder of the Space Coast Family Forum, an anti-abortion and family values group. In Congress he focused heavily on conservative social legislation including a law banning a late-term procedure that its critics call "partial-birth" abortion.”  And according to the Miami Herald, a spokesman said Weldon decided to run because “there is no authentic conservative in the race. We've got two moderates fighting it out." [The reference was to Connie Mack and then-candidate George LeMieux, who since endorsed Mack.]

So what about Mack? 

Connie Mack
Connie Mack - Executive, LTP Management Incorporated, 1994-2000; Marketing Consultant; Florida State House of Representatives 2001-2004; US House of Representatives 2005-present. Living in Fort Myers, Fl (Vote Smart) (though often accused of spending more of his time in California, home of his wife Congresswoman Mary Bono).   

Compared with the others, Mack’s website is refreshingly tame: 

“Congressman Connie Mack has had a distinguished career in public service fighting for Florida and the ideals of Freedom, Security and Prosperity.

Connie has fought to cut spending and taxes, reduce the debt, and balance the budget. And he’s fought against policies like TARP, the Stimulus, ObamaCare, and other liberal experiments that are jeopardizing our future by spending taxpayer dollars on programs Americans cannot afford and do not want....

Connie has been a champion for strengthening our national security, leveraging his position as the Chairman of Congress' Western Hemisphere Subcommittee to fight for the toughest border security with Mexico, and against the threat posed by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and his alliances with Iran and other nations and terrorist organizations that threaten America and our allies.”

PolitiFact.com said, “There are times when he didn’t take a hard-line conservative position, such as his stances on stem cell research and the Arizona immigration law.  But [his claim of a "very conservative voting record"] was about his overall record and how he compared to the rest of Congress, and for that he has gotten high marks from several conservative organizations."

He’s been endorsed by Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney, and every poll shows him ahead by a large margin. 

The TampaBay Times’ said Mack:

“... has the reputation of an opportunist with an unremarkable record in Congress.... He has the expected conservative voting record, opposing the federal stimulus, the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank financial regulation reforms.... Beyond his policy positions, Mack's approach to public service does not inspire confidence. He refused to debate his Republican primary opponents or meet with editorial boards, including this one. By one measure, he has missed more than twice as many votes in the House as the average member since taking office. There also remain questions about how much time he spends in his district.”

There really are no good choices in this race for a RINO like me.  But given the alternatives,  I’d rather have a conservative Congressman who misses votes than one of the challengers whose ideologies scare me. 

Believe it or not, the lesser of evils turns out to be Connie Mack.

Monday, July 16, 2012

First thoughts on our Congressional and Senate Republican primaries


All registered Republicans in Collier County have the opportunity to help decide who will oppose Bill Nelson for one of Florida’s two US Senate seats, and those living in western Collier County will help decide who will oppose the Democratic and NPA nominees for that region's Congressional seat in November.

Before I say more, I urge you to find out if your Congressional district has changed as a result of redistricting.  Mine has, along with about 38,000 other Collier County voters.

A letter to the editor in Saturday’s Naples Daily News by Jennifer Edwards, Supervisor of Elections, explains the changes really well.  It says, in part:
Voters who were previously in Congressional District 14 (currently represented by Connie Mack IV) will now find themselves either in the new District 19, a coastal district, or the new District 25, which covers most of eastern Collier County. The dividing line between the coastal district and the eastern district has also moved west, to Interstate 75 in the north and Livingston Road in the south. The former line largely followed Collier Boulevard. 
While Collier has long been split by two districts, the changes have shifted a substantial number of voters from the coastal district to the eastern district. Approximately 38,000 Collier County voters are affected by this shift. 
Voters in the new District 25 will not find a congressional race on their 2012 primary election ballot [because incumbent Mario Diaz-Balart has no challengers for that seat]. The congressional contest for this district will be on the November general election ballot.
Voters living in the new District 19 have six candidates to choose from on August 14:

  • Gary  Aubuchon
  • Joe Davidow
  • Byron Donalds
  • Chauncey Porter Goss
  • Paige Kreegel
  • Trey Radel

All registered Collier Republicans have four candidates to choose from on August 14 in the US Senate primary:

  • Connie Mack
  • Mike McCalister
  • Marielena Stuart
  • Dave Weldon

If you haven’t already, now’s the time to be thinking about who you will vote for. To begin, Leap2Liberty.com has photos of the candidates and links to their campaign websites.  They are also hosting and live-streaming a Candidate Forum beginning at 7PM tonight in Fort Myers. According to the Naples Daily News, Forum co-hosts include The Naples Tea Party, GOooh FL, Lee 912, Christian Constitution Coalition, SWFL Fair Tax, One Nation Under God, Oath Keepers and Florida World Changers.  Americans for Prosperity, America Majority, McGregor Baptist Church and the Southwest Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce also are active supporters.  That Forum, as well as Leap2Liberty’s April 24 Forum, can be viewed from their video archive.

As I won’t be voting in this Congressional primary, I won’t be offering my recommendation, but I’d be happy to share with my readers any thoughts you may have.

I’ll have thoughts on the Senate primary in my next post.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Dwight Brock for Collier County Clerk of Courts


It seems to me if you’re hiring a Chief Financial Officer, you’ll want the candidate with the best academic and professional credentials, and the most relevant work experience.  Further, you’ll want the candidate whose career to-date inspires the most confidence.

On August 14, we’ll be hiring Collier County’s Chief Financial Officer, known in Florida as the Clerk of the Circuit Court, the Clerk of Courts, or simply the Clerk.  All registered Collier voters can vote in this important election, regardless of party affiliation.  The winner will be our Clerk of Courts for the next four years.

The title understates the breadth of this position’s responsibility. As might be expected, the Clerk maintains the Court's records and collects and disburses Court-imposed fines, fees and assessments.  But in addition, the Clerk collects and distributes statutory assessments imposed by the County, is guardian of public records, public funds, and public property, and is the accountant for the Board of County Commissioners. He is also the County’s Auditor, Recorder, and Custodian.  It’s a big job.

While each of these functions is important, I believe - as a former certified public accountant (CPA) and corporate finance executive - the importance of the accounting and auditing functions cannot be overstated.

Dwight Brock (R) has been Clerk of Courts for Collier County since 1992.  He is a CPA and a licensed attorney in the state of Florida. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Florida State University, a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) from Stetson University, and a juris doctor degree (JD) from Nova Law Center. He has been a criminal prosecutor.  Under his leadership, the Collier Clerk’s department has won numerous awards in financial reporting and budgeting.

Brock may be best known for his six-year battle with the Collier County Commission over the Clerk’s right to audit county bank accounts (specifically those of the Ochopee Fire District and Isles of Capri fire department), which was decided in his favor by the Florida Supreme Court last year.  (If you’re not familiar with this incredible story, click here.)

Brock is being challenged this year in his bid for re-election for the first time since 1996.  His challenger is John Barlow (R), a retired businessman.  Barlow holds a business management degree from Florida Southern College and had a career in the retail auto parts industry that culminated as President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Safelite Glass Corporation (1991-2003).  At Safelite, according to his website, Barlow was responsible for turning around a company “damaged by poor productivity and below average customer satisfaction.”

After retiring in 2003, Barlow started H.O.M.E. - Housing Opportunities Made for Everyone – “a Naples-based non-profit established to help lower income families realize the dream of home ownership.” H.O.M.E. purchased, restored and resold foreclosed homes, in part with federal (HUD Community Development Block Grants) and state (State Housing Initiative Partnership - SHIP) funding obtained via pass-through agreements with the Collier County Commission.  In November 2010, H.O.M.E. ceased operations.

Barlow served on the Collier County Affordable Housing Committee (2007-2008) and the county Productivity Committee (2005-2009).

Barlow says, “I’m running for Clerk of Circuit Courts to infuse Collier County government with private sector principles. During my 40 years in the private sector I’ve balanced budgets, increased productivity, and provided superior customer service.  That’s exactly what I’ll do as Clerk.  Together, we will turnaround the Clerk’s office to become professional, open, and honest with Collier County taxpayers.”

Brock says, “As a CPA and attorney, I am uniquely qualified and proven as the "Watchdog" of public funds. My opponent is NOT!  My opponent described, in his own words, his ability to account for H.O.M.E. funds by saying, "I'm not good at this stuff. I've never been a CFO before."

Brock’s reference is to an audit conducted by the Clerk’s Internal Audit Department last year of a county program that provided over half a million dollars to H.O.M.E.  You can read the audit report here, and about broader issues uncovered by the Clerk’s audit of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, administered by the County’s Housing, Human, & Veterans Affairs office, here.

To me, the choice is clear.  Dwight Brock has served Collier County well as “watchdog” over expenditures of taxpayer funds.  He is a man of principle who takes quite seriously his responsibility to uphold the law.  His combination of professional training and on-the-job experience far exceeds that of his opponent.

I’m voting for Dwight Brock for Clerk of the Circuit Court.


************************************
For more information:
·        Dwight Brock for Clerk website
·        John Barlow for Clerk website
·        League of Women Voters of Collier County candidate questionnaires
·        League of Women Voters of Collier County candidate forum (at 00:45:00)


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Whew! No school prayer in Collier County Public Schools


Did you know that the Florida Legislature passed a law in its 2012 session to permit prayer in our public schools?  As summarized in the Sun-Sentinel last February:
The bill ... permit(s) individual school boards to adopt standards for how and when students in public schools could lead public prayer at school events, even mandatory events like student assemblies. The prayer would have to be initiated and delivered by students, with no involvement by faculty or staff. 
(Bill sponsor Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando)’s original bill had been limited to non-compulsory events like school dances and extracurricular activities at secondary schools. But ... the Senate adopted an amendment permitting student-run prayer at all events in all grades.
Groups like the Anti-Defamation League and American Civil Liberties Union have lobbied against the bill, calling it unconstitutional and predicting any school board adopting such policies would be sued. ... 
As bad as I think the law is, I’m relieved to know we don’t have to worry about it in Collier County.  Our School Board decided to opt out.  In a statement referred to in the Naples Daily News on Sunday (“New state laws: Collier schools pass on allowing student-led prayer law”), Superintendent Kamela Patton said:
The legislation is permissive. That means that districts are free to choose whether they want to adopt a policy whose language must track the language of the Bill. Based on our review, our policies and prevailing First Amendment law provide students with the appropriate means and protections for freedom of religious expression. Finally, based on our review as well, adopting such a policy could embroil the District in a constitutional challenge and related litigation which would not be in the District's best interests especially at this time when we have more pressing issues to be focused on such as academic accountability and District finances. (No online citation; statement provided to me by the District.) 
This is just one more example of how elections have consequences.  With a different School Board – like the one we had several years ago – a different decision could easily have been reached.

Community input and feedback are important to elected officials.  If you have an opinion about this Board’s decision, I encourage you to let them know.  You can email them here.