Friday, October 21, 2016

Get ready to vote in the Collier Mosquito Control District elections

If you live in the Collier Mosquito Control District (CMCD), you have choices for two of its Board seats on your ballot: Seat 4 and Seat 5.

The CMCD is not a body I was familiar with. I became aware that there was some controversy around the race through letters to the editor in the Naples Daily News. It seems some people, including candidates Andreas Roth (Seat 4) and David Chapman (Seat 5), are concerned about the aerial spraying practices of the CMCD. The concerned letter-writers claim that:

  • there is insufficient data on the effect of the sprayed chemicals on pregnant women, infants and breastfeeding mothers to support current practices; and that
  • the public receives insufficient notification about when spraying will take place to enable them to take precautions to avoid contact (breathing the spray, exposure to skin, hand-to-mouth, object-to-mouth, etc.).

These are reasonable things to be concerned about, if true, but nothing I’d personally been aware of. So what could I do to be an informed voter for candidates for a Board I know nothing about?

I tried to approach the task systematically and objectively, and struggled mightily to avoid getting too far into the weeds (no pun intended). In this post, I’ll share what I did, what I learned, and how I will vote:

The Collier Mosquito Control District (CMCD)

According to its website (www.cmcd.org), the CMCD was created in 1950 and is governed by Chapter 388, Florida Statutes. In 1950, the district was 6 square miles in size; it is now 401 square miles. As such it covers about 20 percent of Collier County. It has a Board of five Commissioners who are elected to non-partisan “Seats” for four-year terms. Meetings of the Board of Commissioners are held monthly at District headquarters, 600 North Road, and are open to the public. See the District’s “Information Sheet,” here.

Also according to the website:

“The mission of the District is to [suppress] both disease carrying and pestiferous mosquito populations by & through the safest and most economical means available … consistent with the highest level of safety and minimal adverse impact on humans, wildlife, the environment, and non-target organisms.”

The District’s operations are overseen by an Executive Director with a MS in Human Anatomy and Physiology Instruction (MSHAPI), who has a staff of 26 full-time employees including a Director of Administration and a Director of Operations, both with over 25 years of service, a Research Department with an entomologist and a biologist, and an Aviation Department with pilots, aircraft mechanics and a parts manager. The District owns a fleet of 8 aircraft and 16 vehicles.

The District’s annual spending is about $9 million, funded primarily by local ad valorem taxes. According to my most recent tax bill, I pay less than $100 per year in CMCD taxes.

My take-away: The CMCD is a significant operation that requires specialized scientific and technical training and up-to-date knowledge. The Board’s role, it seems to me, is to represent the interests of the community and provide appropriate oversight by reviewing the District's mission periodically, ensuring that the Executive Director and staff are fulfilling that mission, setting the millage rate, approving the budget, and overseeing the expenditure of taxpayer money. Therefore, in evaluating the candidates, I looked for relevant education, experience, community service, and opportunities to assess their judgment.

Communication

In view of the charges of insufficient communication, I explored the CMCD website for information about past and future planned treatment activity and precautions that should be taken by the community. I noted some obvious areas that needed improvement, to which the Executive Director responded promptly, writing that, “We at CMCD recognize that our notification program has some room for improvement, and we are doing something about it. Going forward, it is our goal to provide notice of planned treatment up to 48 hours in advance, as well as update changes to the plan as soon as possible following a decision to change them.”

It is easy to find out about past treatments by entering an address and a date range in a search box on the District’s website. You can also sign up to be notified by email, text or phone about upcoming mosquito treatments in your area. The District also recently introduced a mobile app for iOS and Android devices, from which you can also access that information, and uses Facebook (596 “Likes”) and Twitter (@CollierMosquito - 78 followers) to communicate planned treatments and other news.

While there is some educational material on the website ( e.g. Mosquito Facts, Diseases), it was not as easy as it should be to find guidance about how to prevent mosquito bites and precautions to be taken before, during and after spraying.

My take-away: There is a lot the District could do to improve communication, and they should make this a priority.

The Money

The position pays $400 per month, or $4,800 a year. See “In the Know: Why do we elect commissioners for mosquito control?,” a 2012 article in the Naples Daily News.

From the Collier County Supervisor of Elections website), I learned that fundraising and spending has been focused on Seat 4, in which Andreas Roth and Joshua Costin are challenging incumbent David Farmer.

Campaign Finances Reported as of 10/19/16

Farmer (Seat 4) contributed $85 of the $3,440 he received through 10/14. He received contributions from District 1 Commissioner Donna Fiala ($50), former District 5 Commissioner Jim Coletta ($100) and Naples City Councilman Reg Buxton ($497 in-kind). In addition, a total of seven people who listed their occupation as engineer or contractor contributed a total of $1,100.

Roth (Seat 4) and Chapman (Seate 5) are self-funding their campaigns.

Seat 5’s incumbent John Johnson and other challenger, Alan Hamisch, have raised and spent nothing on the race, nor has Joshua Costin, the third candidate for Seat 4.

My take-away: I am impressed that Roth and Chapman are self-funding their campaigns. I am also impressed by the show of support by the community leaders who contributed to Farmer’s campaign.

The Candidates

With this information, I decided to limit my research to incumbents Farmer and Johnson and their two active challengers, Roth and Chapman. I then looked for information about the candidates online, seeking information about their education, experience, track record of community service and judgment.

Seat 4 - David Farmer, Incumbent

David Farmer is seeking re-election to Seat 4, having served on the CMCD since 2010. I pieced together his background from a number of online bios here, here, here, here and here.

Farmer has a BS in Civil Engineering from the University of Florida (1996) and an AA from Edison Community College (1993). In addition to serving on the CMCD, he is currently:


David Farmer - Campaign Facebook Page Cover Photo
His civic involvement includes:

  • Director, Big Cypress Basin Board (unpaid gubernatorial appointment)
  • A former Chairman of the SW Florida District Council of, and a National Instructor for, the Urban Land Institute (ULI)
  • Rural Lands Stewardship Review Board
  • East of 951 Horizon Oversight Committee
  • Collier County Value Adjustment Board
  • Golden Gate Fire Department Citizens Advisory Board
  • Golden Gate Estates Land Trust Board
  • Leadership Collier Graduate 2011

His “Re-Elect David Farmer” website and Facebook Page highlight endorsements from County Commissioner Donna Fiala, Golden Gate Estates civic leader Peter Gaddy, water expert and Collier Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor Clarence Tears, community business leaders Russell Budd and Alice J. Carlson, and Naples High School’s Senior Army Junior ROTC Instructor LTC (Ret) Paul Garrah.

Seat 4 - Andreas Roth

I had great difficulty finding out about Andreas Roth, having searched all the usual sites: no candidate statement was filed on the Supervisor of Elections website, there is no LinkedIn profile, and he did not provide the candidate profile requested by the League of Women Voters of Collier County.

Andreas Roth - Campaign Facebook Page Cover Photo
A Google search for “Andreas Roth Collier mosquito” revealed a campaign Facebook Page, a post titled “Is Naled, the primary pesticide the Collier Mosquito Control District sprays, safe for our children?” published 10/6/16 on the GreenMedinfo blog, endorsements by the Collier County Democrats and the Libertarian Party of Collier County, and a number of letters to the editor of the Naples Daily News and campaign-related events.

Further searching Facebook revealed a reply by Roth to an 8/30/16 Facebook post in which unsuccessful Collier School Board candidate Lee Dixon thanked his supporters. Roth wrote, “I was sorry to hear the results. We really need people of your caliber in office to fight for our children and parental rights. Thank you for trying to make change for the better for all of us.”

According to his personal Facebook Profile, Roth works at Astron International Inc., a privately-held company about which I was could find no information, and at Air Transport International, an Ohio-based charter airline. He studied Professional Aeronautics at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Daytona Beach Campus.

A bio accompanying the GreenMedinfo article says that he and Seat 5 candidate David Chapman "are concerned fathers trying to inform fellow residents of the dangers as well as the precautions that should be taken during aerial mosquito spraying to minimize the exposure to these toxic pesticides for adults, children and pregnant women.”

David Farmer
Seat 4 - My Decision

For Seat 4, I will vote to re-elect David Farmer. Our community is fortunate that someone with his education, breadth of experience, track record of community service, and local, state and national network of contacts is willing to serve.

Seat 5 - David Chapman

Chapman’s “Candidate Statement” on the Supervisor of Elections website (click here, then on Chapman’s name) makes the case for his election:

“While we need to spray, you need me as commissioner to ensure the CMCD is honest about the potential effects of these pesticides and greatly improves communication so that the citizens of Collier can form educated decisions regarding the level of precaution they want to take during a spray event. As a successful businessman who has founded and operated online communities with more than 300,000 members, I have the skills necessary to not only improve communication with the people of Collier County, but to develop software that will allow us to fight mosquitoes together.”

David Chapman - Campaign Facebook Page Cover Photo
According to a bio on his campaign website, Chapman is a “former professional baseball player turned successful businessman who has founded, developed, and operated some of the largest online communities in the world. He is a devoted husband and father and operates a 1.5 acre permaculture farm.” Click here to read why he decided not to accept donations to his campaign.

Similar statements were made in an interview with the Naples Herald on 8/24/16 and on his LWVCC Candidate Profile.

I was unable to find any online details or support for the claim that he “founded, developed, and operated some of the largest online communities in the world.” On LinkedIn, a David Chapman in Naples in the Internet Industry is Manager at TGO Logistics LLC, but there is no photo or other detail provided, and a Google search for that company turned up nothing definitive. A Google search on “David Chapman Permaculture” turned up a few mentions, but again, nothing helpful to me in trying to objectively evaluate the candidate’s qualifications for the position.

In a post dated 8/26/16 on Chapman’s campaign Facebook Page about a meeting he had with CMCD Executive Director Patrick Linn, Lead Researcher Dr. Mark Clifton and others, he said the recent hiring of Dr. Clifton “is the best thing the CMCD has done in years,” and that “Director Linn [is] intense, intelligent, and most importantly, he’s honest…. I strongly disagree with some of his opinions and positions (and vice versa), but that’s ok…. Honest people working together with the same goals but different ways of getting there can do amazing things together.”

Chapman offers a number of “Solutions” to address the issues that he thinks “Need to Change.” To the extent the premises of each issue are true, his proposed solutions are worthy of consideration.

Seat 5 - John F. Johnson, incumbent

John F. Johnson - Campaign Facebook Page Cover Photo
Johnson is seeking re-election to a fifth four-year term on the CMCD Board. Having served since 1988, he was unopposed in his race for re-election in 2012.

I was unable to find biographical information about Johnson in my online searches. He did not submit a Candidate Statement for the Collier Supervisor of Elections website, nor did he submit the candidate profile requested by the League of Women Voters of Collier County.

His campaign Facebook Page has just three posts:

  • A link to a YouTube video on mosquito bite prevention,
  • A personal statement titled “It’s All About the People,” which includes what he sees as some of his specific responsibilities as a Commissioner (which align well with my own view of a Commissioner’s role):

    • Define & Set Policies & Procedures
    • Set Millage Rate
    • Approve Annual Budget
    • Critique/Approve/Deny Expenditures of Tax revenue
    • Hire Executive Director & District Counsel
    • Define District Goals
  • An essay titled “Why I Support the CMCD’s Safe Practices Using Naled,” in which he wrote, "As an elected official I must make my decisions based on the facts. In summary they are:

    • Naled has been used safely & effectively for mosquito control since 1959.
    • The EPA and CDC deem this chemical to be safe when handled and used according to the label.
    • CMCD uses the minimum dosage found on the label; ½ of 1 ounce of naled per acre. This dosage has been shown to provide safe and effective mosquito control.
    • Importantly, the District has been using the active ingredient – naled – in an “ultra low volume” (ULV) dosage for more than 20 years.
    • Analysis and research conducted to the highest industry standards have repeatedly demonstrated outstanding control of high mosquito populations.
    • The EPA states there is no evidence that this chemical causes cancer, and further, there is no historical evidence of any such diagnosis.
    • Despite 10 naled-related calls to the Florida Dept. of Health from concerned citizens in the state, no confirmation of any pesticide exposure or illness has been demonstrated."

Further in that essay, he wrote, “I will never make a decision that affects the health & safety of the citizens of Collier County based on innuendo, fear, and/or internet science. The real facts are clear and I will not waiver from this position until the facts in evidence change. If you do not agree with this, I respect your informed decision to not vote for me.”

John F. Johnson
Seat 5 - My Decision

While I am impressed with Chapman’s passion and commitment, and applaud his desire to affect change from within the system, I am troubled by my inability to learn from an online search anything about his education, work experience, community service or qualifications for the position. I am also troubled by the debate between Johnson and Chapman about the science.

Johnson, with 16 years of experience on the CMCD Board, wrote that “Naled is one of the most effective, economical, and safest (when used according to the label) materials available to control mosquito populations.”

Seeming to disagree, Chapman shared, in a 9/26/16 post on his Facebook Page, a chart showing a 2014 summary of the total gallons of Naled used in each of Florida’s 21 state-approved mosquito control programs in which ranked Collier first. He prefaced the chart in the post with an emotionally-laden, hyperbolic sound-bite: “We spray more Naled than anywhere in Florida (and likely the world) in the name of mosquito control.” He distributed the same chart at a meeting of the Collier County Democratic Women’s Club on 10/15/16 and, using the same sound-bite, called it “Collier County’s dirty secret.”

Those statements and the way he chose to use and interpret data, caused me to question Chapman’s judgment and qualification for the position. He didn’t indicate the source of the chart or for what purpose it was prepared. He ignored the types of mosquitoes and conditions being treated in each of the programs in the comparison, and did not provide an ounces-per-acre comparison that would also be relevant. His approach was sensationalistic and sound-bite-based.

Johnson, on the other hand, wrote that “I will never make a decision that affects the health & safety of the citizens of Collier County based on innuendo, fear, and/or internet science. The real facts are clear and I will not waiver from this position until the facts in evidence change.” That’s the kind of person I want overseeing the scientists and experts making the day-to-day decisions of the CMCD.

Based on his long service with the CMCD, the fact that no one has said that he does not deserve reelection, and the sensible statements referred to above, I will vote for John F. Johnson for Seat 5.

Conclusion

Having begun this work knowing nothing about the CMCD, the issues or the candidates, I am amazed at how much I have learned. After reading some alarming letters to the editor, I resisted the temptation to jump to conclusions and took the time to try to learn “the other side of the story.” One of the first things I did was request a meeting with the incumbent who had raised the most money, David Farmer, who patiently answered my (at-the-time very uninformed) questions. In addition to the online research described above, I also watched a video made for me by a friend of the 10/15/16 presentation by Roth and Chapman to the Democratic Women’s Club. And I gave the matter a lot of thought before reaching my decisions.

For Seat 4, I will vote for David Farmer.

For Seat 5, I will vote for John F. Johnson.



Your vote doesn’t count any more if you get your ballot in early than it does if you vote 5 minutes before the polls close on Election Day, November 8. Be patient and take the time to do what you need to do to be an informed voter.

And help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can subscribe to Sparker’s Soapbox by email at www.sparkers-soapbox.blogspot.com, “like” me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sparkers.soapbox or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.

12 comments:

  1. Greetings,

    I am David Chapman, the candidate for Seat 5. Thank you for taking the time to do a thorough analysis and help to inform the voters. As an example of one of my online communities, please see www.crohnsforum.com

    Regarding my assertions regarding Naled, I approach leading experts on these pesticides. I recently approached one of the foremost experts in the world on organophosphates like Naled and we created the following statement together after a long phone conversation:

    "I recently spoke with Dr. Alvin V. Terry, Jr., PhD., Regents' Professor and Chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at Augusta University. I reached out to him after reading his paper, "Functional Consequences of Repeated Organophosphate Exposure: Potential Non-Cholinergic Mechanisms" as well as a host of other studies he has conducted on organophosphate pesticides. Organophosphates are the family of pesticide Naled, the primary pesticide they spray over us here in Collier County falls under.

    While Dr. Terry is a laboratory research scientist, not an environmental health expert, his knowledge is invaluable to our understanding the potential effects of mosquito control spraying. Dr. Terry understands the utility of organophosphates both to the farming industry and for the control of insects like mosquitos that can carry devastating disease organisms and would not support their being banned. However, in describing how the citizens of Collier County have been told these pesticides are safe, that you can go for a jog after they're sprayed, and that there's no special precautions needed, he stated that as an adult, he wouldn't want direct exposure and in his opinion, it's even more important that children not be directly exposed. He supports increased caution in the spraying of these pesticides and that everyone should be provided with common sense precautions to reduce their exposure.

    There are so many unknowns with these pesticides. The primary mode of action for organophosphates is cholinesterase inhibition (they disrupt the nervous system) and most safety data is based upon this. However, as Dr. Terry explained, they have found that organophosphates are highly reactive and bind to other molecules as well. For example, they can disrupt axonal transport which is important in neurodevelopment and cause mitochondrial dysfunction which may lead to a host of negative effects. As such, caution is warranted. People deserve to know when they are being sprayed and what steps they can take to reduce their exposure."

    I realize you've already endorsed the other candidates which is fine, but if you ever have further questions, I am happy to answer them.

    Regards,
    David Chapman

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  2. Thank you, Mr. Chapman. I admire what you are doing, but, as I wrote, you lost me with the way you presented "Collier County's dirty little secret." I hope you will continue to attend the CMCD meetings and advocate for the changes you proposed, and that you will consider running again for one of the 3 seats that will be open two years from now!

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    1. Thank you for the reply. I understand your sentiment on our, "Dirty little secret". Could I have presented that information more scientifically? Certainly, there's no debating that and I do strive to present the majority of what I present in such a manner. I will take your criticism to heart and strive to be better in the future.

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  3. This was very helpful, I appreciate all your research and the time it took you to write this. It helped me a lot.

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  4. Thank you Sparkers. This was very helpful for me. I appreciate the time it took you to find the information and compile it for me.

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  5. Thanks Sparker! This was very helpful. I know it took time to gather all the info and then to write a very thorough and thoughtful analysis. Wish you had more of these.

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    1. Hello, FlKathie. Thanks for your note. I'm glad my post on the Mosquito Control Board was helpful. And to your comment that you wish there were more: there are! I did one on the judges, and am getting ready to post on the fire district and soil & water board choices. Check out the archive of posts at sparkers-soapbox.blogspot.com, where you can sign up to receive future posts by email. Thanks again for wanting to be a more informed voter!

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  6. Your analysis is very helpful. Thanks for your interest in a very important public topic.

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  7. Thank you for the time it took you to investigate. Much appreciated as I research my own decision.

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