Thursday, October 12, 2017

Know your representatives

Recently I learned how to access in one place information I used to struggle through multiple web searches to find: the names, district numbers and contact information of my elected officials across all levels of government.

It's available through the Collier Supervisor of Elections website, but it's not very easy to find. Here's how:

Go to and enter your last name, your birth date and your house number:

After you click “Submit,” a web page like the one below will open. The light-blue box at the top contains your voter registration and sample ballot information. While you're there, make sure everything is correct, or click where indicated to make changes.

In the middle of the box, click “Office Holders.”

your voter registration and sample ballot information

A web page like the one below will open. It will list the elected officials whose districts contain your street address:

the office holders that represent you

If you click an office holder's name, you will be taken to her/his website.

Take a few minutes and check this out! It's a great way to find out or confirm who represents you.

Every person listed is your representative. Know who they are so you can hold them accountable. Let your voice be heard.


Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can read Sparker’s Soapbox online at or subscribe to posts by email at

News happens daily! Stay current with Sparker’s Soapbox on Facebook at or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.

Monday, October 2, 2017

September 2017 Month in Review - Local News

As at the state level, Hurricane Irma dominated September’s news related to our county and municipal governments and school district, and there is much to report. But I'd like to begin with this quote from Friday’s Naples Daily News editorial:
There will be a time to constructively dissect the Irma preparation and post-storm response. Now is too soon. Monday morning quarterbacks will best serve our community if they wait on the sidelines for more fact-finding.

In this post, I share the news as reported, and without comment. As you read this post, please consider each story from the perspective of the elected officials responsible. If you were they, would you have done anything differently? What facts would you be seeking in order to decide what to do next?

If ever there was an opportunity to see and evaluate your government in action, it was during Hurricane Irma. If you have comments, questions or suggestions about any of last month’s events, I encourage you to share them with your elected officials.

As a reminder, these are the local governing bodies that were/are responsible for providing services to our community:

Collier County Emergency Services Center
8075 Lely Cultural Parkway, Naples 
The Board of County Commissioners — Their appointed County Manager and his organization (CMO) are responsible for the day-to-day operations of county government. As relates to Hurricane Irma, the Bureau of Emergency Services Division and the Public Utilities Department are part of the CMO. (Organization chart )

The Collier County Sheriff - The Sheriff and his staff are responsible, on a day-to-day basis, for “preserving and protecting the lives, property and constitutional guarantees of all persons.”

The  City of Naples City Council, City of Marco Island City Council and City of Everglades City City Council and their respective City managers and staffs are responsible for providing services and protecting their municipalities. (Ironically, Everglades City’s mayor of 22 years resigned over problems with the City’s sewer plant just days before Hurricane Irma wreaked its havoc.)

The Collier County Public School Board — The School Board’s appointed superintendent and her staff provided hurricane-protected shelters for community members who evacuated their homes due to the predicted storm surge.

The stories, editorials, and commentaries noted below link to the Naples Daily News unless otherwise noted.

Top stories: Hurricane Irma

 Top editorials and commentaries - Hurricane Irma

Top stories: Collier County

Top stories and commentaries: City of Naples

Top stories: Collier County Public Schools

Looking ahead: ways to help

As mentioned above, there is still great human need in areas within our own community, and there are many ways to help. I close this post with just a few:

  • Volunteer your time to help victims of Hurricane Irma in Collier County via
  • Purchase needed items from the United Way of Collier County’s Amazon Wish List for Hurricane Irma Victims. The items you order will be shipped to the United Way, which will get them delivered to areas that need them the most.
  • Make a tax-deductible donation to the Collier Comes Together Disaster Relief Fund, established to provide assistance to Hurricane Irma victims and their families. You can designate a geographic area (e.g. Marco Island, Immokalee, Golden Gate), purpose (e.g. food, housing) or nonprofit to benefit.

Thank you for wanting to be an informed voter and for making a difference in our community.


Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can read Sparker’s Soapbox online at or subscribe to posts by email at

News happens daily! Stay current with Sparker’s Soapbox on Facebook at or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.

Friday, September 29, 2017

September 2017 Month in Review - State News

By far, the top story in state government this month was Hurricane Irma, which made landfall in the Florida Keys on Sunday, September 10, as a Category 4 storm with 130 mph winds. By all accounts (here’s one), its wind speed and evacuations were orders of magnitude worse than some of the biggest hurricanes in recent decades.

As one who experienced it first-hand, I think Gov. Rick Scott deserves praise for his decisive leadership and the state’s overall response before, during and after the event.

I’ll begin this post with a review of the Governor’s actions related to the hurricane. Then I’ll share some top stories, editorials, and commentaries.

Gov. Scott’s leadership during Hurricane Irma

On Monday, September 4, Gov. Scott declared a state of emergency for all 67 Florida counties.

The next day, he asked President Trump to declare a “pre-landfall emergency” for the state to “provide important resources and assistance from the federal government” and “free up funding sources for emergency protective measures such as shoring up beach dunes, building emergency berms and planning for potential evacuations.”

He also activated the National Guard to assist with Irma preparedness, directed the suspension of tolls across the state to speed up evacuation, and ordered state offices to be closed Friday, encouraging state employees to volunteer to support the state’s emergency shelter mobilization efforts. He also began issuing daily Irma updates. In a news conference in North Naples, he urged Floridians to “prepare for the worst.”

On Thursday, September 7, he ordered all public schools, state colleges and universities, and state offices to close from  Friday through Monday, “to ensure we have every space available for sheltering and staging.” He also announced actions being taken to get more fuel to gas stations, and activated the state’s Disaster Fund to support individuals impacted by the Hurricane.

With the storm track making it clear that Florida’s west coast was in the line of the storm, on Friday, September 8, he urged those in evacuation zones along coastal counties from Manatee to Collier to be prepared to locate to the closest available shelter within their counties if they did not evacuate by noon the next day. I remember it well. The evacuation zone was extended as far east as Airport-Pulling Road in some areas!

On September 10, as Irma made landfall in the Lower Keys, Scott asked President Trump for and received, a Major Disaster Declaration for every county in Florida. This authorized federal funding to flow directly to Floridians impacted by Hurricane Irma, including families in Collier County. It also authorized federal reimbursement to local communities and the state government for emergency protective measures and debris removal.

Scott also publicly shared the “incredible outpouring of support” that had been deployed to Florida from twenty-eight states and Washington D.C. to aid in the response and recovery.

The Governor’s leadership continued as recovery began. On September 18, he directed every county impacted by Irma to “aggressively prioritize debris clean-up, and on the 19th, he directed VISIT FLORIDA to “launch an aggressive new marketing campaign to highlight Florida following Hurricane Irma.”

On September 20, Scott announced that the state was awarded “federal Dislocated Worker Grants to provide temporary employment to Floridians affected” by the hurricane. On the 25th, he activated 400 National Guard members to help with residential debris removal in Monroe County and directed the Florida Dept of Emergency Management to expedite delivery of tarps for patching roofs.

Read more on the Governor’s website at

While the Governor’s leadership was commendable, the hurricane made apparent several issues that our state government must address in the months ahead. And there was some non-Irma related state news this month, as well. Here are some articles of note:

Top stories - Irma

  • Widespread shelter problems during Irma raise questions about Florida’s readiness. A 2016 Division of Emergency Management report said Florida has safe emergency shelter capacity for about 960,000 evacuees. At least 5.6 million Floridians were ordered to evacuate during Irma, though only 5 percent to 10 percent of evacuees typically go to public shelters. Tampa Bay Times
  • Florida’s bridges vulnerable to damage from hurricanes. Although Florida has one of the best inspection records in the country, thousands of bridges, some of them crucial arteries, are still considered vulnerable to a strong hurricane’s storm surge and winds. Naples Daily News
  • Eight Dead From Sweltering Nursing Home as Florida Struggles After Irma. Florida requires nursing homes to ensure emergency power in a disaster as well as food, water, staffing and 72 hours of supplies. NYTimes

    • Related: Nursing Home Deaths Prompt New Rules by Florida Governor. NYTimes
    • Related: 11th resident of South Florida nursing home dies; another lawsuit filed. Naples Daily News
    • Related:  Florida governor’s office deleted critical messages related to post-hurricane nursing home deaths. Washington Post
    • Related:  Governor responds to controversy over deleted nursing home voicemails. WPBF News
  • Gwen Graham accurately says Florida’s coastal and stormwater infrastructure not prepared for climate change. The Democratic candidate for governor is citing a report card given out by the oldest engineering society in the country. Politifact Florida
  • Rick Scott’s hurricane response boosts potential Senate run. His preparedness has impressed Republicans and some Democrats, all of whom have long expected Scott to challenge incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson next year. The Hill

Top stories - other news

  • Repeal of Florida’s tax on services reverberates, 30 years later. Florida won’t collect enough tax revenue over the next three years to pay its mounting bills – especially for Medicaid, which now consumes nearly one-third of the state’s budget. The future could mean cuts to schools, hospitals and treatment programs, fewer state workers, and higher fees for services. Tampa Bay Times
  • Education leaders seek $21.4 billion for schools next year. The Florida Board of Education approved a 2018–19 budget request that includes a $200 per-student boost in the K–12 system, increased funding for the 28 state colleges and construction money for public schools, colleges, and universities.  Orlando Sentinel 
  • Deadline for public to submit amendments to state Constitution extended to Oct. 6. The deadline was extended because commissioners wanted to give more time after Hurricane Irma blew through the state. Miami Herald 

  • Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection seeks $50 million to revive Florida Forever conservation program. Its 2018–19 budget proposals also include $50 million for programs to improve water quality and drinking water quantity, and $50 million to support state parks. Gov. Scott will propose his 2018–19 budget later this year, with the 60-day regular session beginning in January. Orlando Sentinel
  • Gov. Scott calls for $50 million and new legislation to fight opioid abuse. The proposal, which includes a three-day limit on initial prescriptions for opioids, will be one of his top priorities in the upcoming legislative session. Sun Sentinel
  • Army Corps of Engineers will commit to, expedite Lake Okeechobee southern reservoir, after twice asking for more time to commit. Before it can break ground on the reservoir, it has to complete a study, which was originally planned to launch in 2020. TCPalm
  • Lee County approves deal to buy Edison Farms conservation land, whose water retention capacity benefits the entire region in times of flooding. The nearly 4,000 acres will be preserved, after decades in which scenarios for its future included an interstate interchange, being drained for development of 3,000 or more housing units, a spring training baseball park, or the route for a  new north-south thoroughfare through Lee County. News-Press
  • Nonprofit group files records request for info about Florida online voter registration. With this month’s implementation deadline, the group wants to make sure the online voter registration system will handle the flurry of registration that can happen before an election deadline. Tampa Bay Times
  • Bonuses based on teacher test scores violate civil rights, lawsuit alleges. Seven teachers from South Florida are joining the Florida Education Association in suing the state over its Best and Brightest teacher bonus program, which ties bonuses to teachers’ college entrance exam scores. Tampa Bay Times

Top editorials and commentaries

  • Editorial: State lawmakers must act to protect vulnerable residents from natural disasters. As we’ve learned in the aftermath of Irma, there are serious shortcomings in what the state requires of nursing homes and senior-living facilities. Treasure Coast Newspapers via Naples Daily News
  • Commentary: Post-Irma, conservation agenda more vital than ever. Collier County commissioners [should] revive the Conservation Collier program and move forward with a Conservation Collier-specific referendum for the public to approve in fall 2018. In addition, our local elected state representatives should take a leadership role in implementing Amendment 1. By Rob Moher, President and CEO - Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Naples Daily News
  • Commentary: Stop exploitation of insurance system where it starts. When a major storm hits our state, many distressed homeowners will turn over their insurance policy benefits to a lawyer, roofer or contractor who offers the hope of a better settlement. Sens. Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) and Dorothy Hukill (R-Port Orange) have co-sponsored a bill that … limits the ability of attorneys and contractors to squeeze the most dollars out of a claim solely for their benefit. By Jason Wolf, partner - Koch Parafinczuk Wolf Susen, Fort Lauderdale, Sun Sentinel

Stay tuned for my next post, where I’ll report on September’s local Irma-related efforts and other top local government and school district news.


Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can read Sparker’s Soapbox online at or subscribe to posts by email at

News happens daily! Stay current with Sparker’s Soapbox on Facebook at or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

School Board to set 2017–18 tax rate and budget ... and more

Collier County Public Schools
Regular School Board Meeting - 5 PM
Final Budget Hearing - 5:30 PM
Tuesday, September 26 
Should our school taxes go up or down next year? Should the District increase or decrease its spending on capital projects? On operations? These are among other matters our elected School Board members will decide Tuesday, so you have between now and then to have your say.

Some basics
School taxes are a function of the value of the properties subject to tax and a millage rate, which is a tax rate per $1,000 of assessed property value. The County Property Appraiser’s Office determines the assessed property values. The School Board decides the millage rate.

Local property taxes are just one source of a District’s funding. It also receives funds from the state and federal governments and a few non-governmental sources. A District has available to spend not only funds received in the current year but also funds it set aside as reserves in prior years.

At its first FY18 budget meeting in July...
At its first budget meeting on July 25 after hearing from five public speakers, the Board approved tentative 2017–18 millage rates and a tentative 2017–18 budget.

To begin, Superintendent Kamela Patton recommended millage rates that with the Property Appraiser’s estimate of property values would have yielded $437.6 million.

Board Vice Chair Erika Donalds then proposed reducing the Superintendent’s recommended millage for capital improvements, ultimately by 0.0200 mills, which would reduce taxes by $1.7 million. After discussion, the motion passed three to two, with Board members Stephanie Lucarelli and Erick Carter voting no.

The approved tentative millage rate of $5.1220 per $1,000 of assessed property value is 2.3 percent lower than last year’s $5.2450 per $1,000, as shown below.

Even though the rate is lower, because property values have increased it would yield $20.3 million more tax dollars, as shown below.

The state’s Truth in Millage (TRIM) law requires comparing the taxes that would be raised with the proposed millage rate to what would be raised with what it calls a "rolled-back rate." The “rolled-back rate” is the millage rate that would have produced the same amount of tax dollars as the previous year, excluding new construction taxable values. Taxes raised with the proposed rate would be 2.02% higher than with the “rolled-back rate.”

At the July meeting, the Superintendent also recommended a tentative budget for the next school year of $1.051 billion, an increase of 7.6 percent over last year’s budget, based on a projected 46,529 students, up 1.5 percent from last year. That request was approved by a vote of four to one, with Board member Kelly Lichter the sole dissenter.

For approval Tuesday...
At the District’s final budget hearing/meeting Tuesday, the Superintendent will ask the Board to approve as final the previously-approved tentative rates totaling 5.1220 mills.

She will also ask them to approve as final a $1.054 billion budget. This amount is slightly more than the tentative budget they approved in July and 8 percent higher than last year, as shown below.

I assume but look forward to confirming on Tuesday that the recommended budget provides for costs associated with Hurricane Irma cleanup and repair. According to the Naples Daily News, Superintendent Patton said damage to schools was "minor, citing leaking roofs and missing tiles.... Twenty-seven district schools were used to shelter 17,000 people during and after the hurricane. In a Sept. 14 interview, Patton said she plans to submit expenses to FEMA and apply for county grants."

How will the proposed millage rates impact the taxpayer?
According to the District's draft budget presentation, a hypothetical taxpayer eligible for Florida’s Homestead Exemption whose property had an assessed value last year of $400,000 would have FY18 taxes of $1,964, a decrease of $3 (0.2%) compared to her prior year taxes.

If that taxpayer was not eligible for the Homestead Exemption, FY18 taxes on the same property would be $2,098, an increase $104 (5.0%).

I encourage you to preview Tuesday’s PowerPoint presentation here.

In this post, I tried to clearly and concisely summarize what I, who wants to be an informed voter, thought was important to know in advance of Tuesday's budget meeting. I did not dig into the detailed budget and spending projections because I have confidence in Superintendent Patton and her team, and I have no interest in micro-managing or second-guessing them. For those who want more detail, it is available here.

In my opinion, given the impressive new academic offerings the District has and continues to introduce, the ongoing improvement in test scores, graduation rates, and school and district grades, the difficulty in attracting and retaining teachers, the continuing unfunded mandates from the state, and the projected increase in the number of students, the minimal proposed increase in the millage rate over the rolled-back rate is completely acceptable to me.

Let your voice be heard
The special School Board meeting to vote on the proposed final millage rates and budget is Tuesday, September 26, at 5:30 PM at the Dr. Martin Luther King Administrative Center, 5775 Osceola Center, Naples, FL.

Agenda here. Map here.

Let your voice be heard if you have input you would like considered before the Board votes. Attend the meeting in person or contact any/all School Board members before the meeting.

Erick Carter -
Erika Donalds -
Kelly Lichter -
Stephanie Lucarelli -
Roy Terry -

And also ....
In addition to the budget, the Board will consider several other important matters at its regular monthly meeting beginning at 5 PM on Tuesday, including:

 The agenda and related materials for Tuesday's Regular School Board meeting are here.

Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can read Sparker's Soapbox online at, subscribe to posts by email at, "like" Sparker's Soapbox on Facebook at or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

August 2017 Month in Review - Local news

Local news in August was again dominated by our elected officials’ efforts to plan for growth, prop up aging infrastructure, and address the need for affordable housing and satisfy the desire to set aside conservation lands.

This month, decisions will be made when the County, City and School Board finalize their FY 2017–18 budgets. Let your voice be heard before they do. This Month in Review identifies some of the issues they will address. See the end of this post for budget hearing meeting dates and how to contact your representatives.

Also in August, Collier County Public Schools reopened after the summer break, and two candidates filed to run for School Board from District 3.

The stories, editorials and commentaries noted below link to the Naples Daily News unless otherwise noted.

Top stories: Collier County

Top editorials and commentaries: Collier County

Top stories and editorials: City of Naples

Top stories: Collier County Public Schools

Top editorials and commentaries: Collier County Public Schools

Election news

Upcoming budget hearings

  • Collier County Board of County Commissioners - September 7 and 21. Materials here.
  • Naples City Council - September 6 and 20. Agenda here.
  • Collier County School Board - September 12. Agenda here.

Take a few minutes and share your thoughts with your representatives before they decide how to spend your tax dollars. Reach your County Commissioners here, Naples City Council members here, and Collier School Board members here.


Help me reach more Collier voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can subscribe to posts by email at or read Sparker’s Soapbox online at

News happens daily! Stay current with Sparker’s Soapbox on Facebook at or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

August 2018 Month In Review - State News

State news this month was dominated by fallout from some of the Legislature’s past actions, while 2018 election campaigns got underway for a few key statewide races. The 2018 Legislative session begins on January 9; committee meetings are to begin in mid-September.

Top stories

  • Florida Legislature, agency let $20 million in federal aid for mental health care expire without replacing it. Now, in the midst of an opioid crisis, Naples could lose substance abuse services for 219 people. Naples Daily News
    • Related: Sen. Jack Latvala urges Gov. Rick Scott to fill funding gap by executive order. The Florida Senate budget chief and 2018 gubernatorial candidate’s letter to Scott was also signed by Senate President Joe Negron and Senate President Pro Tempore Anitere Flores. Naples Daily News
  • After ‘hard and messy’ battle, Visit Florida faces new problems. Weeks after Gov. Scott struck a compromise with House Speaker Richard Corcoran allowing new regulations on the governor’s pet tourism agency in return for its $76 million budget, the marketing of one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations is in “serious disarray.” Tampa Bay Times
  • Power companies pumped $166,400 to Florida lawmakers who control their watchdog group. As state lawmakers work to fill three Florida Public Service Commission vacancies, it’s abundantly clear why the watchdog board has no teeth: Every single politician deciding who gets to sit on the board has taken thousands of dollars in campaign donations from power and fossil-fuel companies. Miami New Times
    • Related: Editorial: Florida’s broken system for selecting utility watchdogs. Utility companies contribute heavily to the campaigns of state lawmakers who serve on the PSC nominating council or appoint those who do. History shows these lawmakers favor applicants friendly to the utilities they are supposed to watchdog. It’s time to revisit how PSC members are selected. Sun-Sentinel
  • South Florida Water Management District emails show U.S. Sugar Corp. lobbyist’s influence. The District changed course immediately after a Dec. 2014 meeting with the lobbyist, halting planned rules meant to protect Florida waterways from pollutants in favor of a plan that “takes polluters at their word and holds no one accountable” if water quality suffers. TCPalm
  • Army Corps not ready to help South Florida Water Management District on Lake Okeechobee reservoir, asking for another month to make sure the Corps’ participation was “legally sufficient, policy compliant and implementable.” The SFWMD and Corps are supposed to have a basic design for the reservoir when the Legislature begins its 2018 session in January. TCPalm
    • Related: State may pay more on reservoir because its request will require the Corps to repurpose a project Congress already authorized. How much the federal government is willing to cover might have to be reconsidered. TCPalm
  • Florida’s Stand Your Ground change unconstitutional, second Miami judge rules. The ruling adds to an ongoing legal fight over whether lawmakers overstepped their authority when they revised the law to shift the burden to prosecutors, who are now forced to disprove a defendant’s claim of self-defense. Miami Herald
  • Florida Supreme Court strikes blow to death row inmates. The issue was whether all death row inmates should benefit from rulings by the U.S. and Florida Supreme Courts that struck down the state’s death penalty as unconstitutional because it didn’t require a unanimous jury vote. Palm Beach Post
  • Legal challenge to charter-friendly education law grows to 10 districts. The 274-page HB 7069 covers a wide range of provisions, some easing the ways in which charter schools can open and secure tax dollars.  News-Journal
    • Related: Editorial: Suing state over HB 7069 is understandable move for school boards. Lee County School Board members made the right decision to go to court against the state over approval of House Bill 7069. Naples Daily News
    • Related: Editorial “Kick”: School Board members Kelly Lichter and Erika Donalds opposed putting a review of HB 7069 by the district’s attorney on the board’s next agenda because it would be “divisive.” "We’d think members of any elected board would welcome a legal presentation on a 'divisive' issue. The ensuing discussion is only as “divisive” as the rhetoric the elected leaders then use when debating it." Naples Daily News
  • Sen. Passidomo of Naples to lead education budget committee. She replaces Sen. David Simmons, who voted against the highly contested HB 7069. The Senate PreK–12 Education Appropriations Subcommittee is responsible for cobbling together the Senate’s education budget. Naples Daily News
    • Related: Senator Simmons replaced  by a “first term senator from Naples who just moved up from the House” and who supported HB 7069, the religious expression bill and the textbook review bill. Florida League of Women Voters
    • Related: Text messages reveal behind-the-scenes battle over charter school bill. Politico
  • Sen. Passidomo sets Collier’s 2018 Legislative Delegation meeting for October 19. Local government entities, businesses, organizations, and citizens are encouraged to “use this opportunity to share with the delegation” local bills and local budget requests in advance of the 2018 Legislative Session as well as issues they would like to see addressed by state government. Immokalee Bulletin
  • Florida textbook law: America’s fight over facts continues. The law, the first of its kind in the nation, allows any state resident to formally challenge instructional materials. A Collier County resident claims that "any textbook including climate change information should leave open the possibility that humans are not at fault….” Time
  • Florida will pay $82,000 after losing vote-by-mail lawsuit. The Florida Democratic Party and the Democratic National Committee sued last year because state law did not require voters to be notified if their signatures on their ballot and voter registration forms don’t match. The Florida Legislature changed the law this spring. Tampa Bay Online
  • Trump nominates State Rep. Carlos Trujillo (R-Miami) to UN post, making the “powerful” Florida House budget chief one of UN Ambassador Nikki Haley’s four deputies. The district stretches from western Miami-Dade County into Collier County. Miami Herald
    • Related: Trujillo won’t resign from Florida Legislature for Trump administration post. Trujillo said he confirmed that the position would not require him to abandon his elected office, thereby avoiding a special election to replace him in House District 105, a Republican-leaning seat. Miami Herald

Top editorials and commentaries

  • Editorial: Voters may get chance to close loophole in law. Florida’s write-in provision has undermined hundreds of elections over the past 17 years. This could change in November 2018 if the state’s Constitution Revision Commission approves a proposed constitutional amendment offered by Dave Aronberg, state attorney for Palm Beach County. Treasure Coast Newspapers via Naples Daily News
  • Editorial: Whatever happened to home rule in Florida? Legislators chafe at federal regulations that come from Washington. Then they turn around and hand down their own edicts, handcuffing local officials who want to do what’s best for their constituents, but find they can’t because of the heavy-handedness from Tallahassee. Treasure Coast Newspapers via Naples Daily News
  • Commentary: Money is following for-profit schools, not students. Proposed constitutional amendments likely in 2018 will be designed to “give Republicans a free hand to privatize our public schools, increase public school tax funds going to for-profit charter corporations, legalize vouchers, and continue to siphon funds out of public school districts coffers.” Mark J. Castellano, President - Teachers Association of Lee County, News-Press

Election news

2018 Race for Governor 

  • Nine Republicans, 5 Democrats, 2 NPA, 1 LPF and 1 CPF have filed to run for governor in 2018. Florida Dept of State
  • Contributions totaling $6 million have been reported to date. Topping the list are Republicans Adam Putnam ($2.3 million) and Democrats Chris King ($1.7 million) and Gwen Graham ($1.1 million). Florida Dept of State
  • Florida Insider Poll: Who is the true conservative in the mix for governor? The “clear winner,” with 41 percent, was U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, followed by Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, with 29 percent, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam with 24 percent and state Sen. Jack Latvala with 6 percent. Tampa Bay Times

2018 Race for Agriculture Commissioner

  •  Four Republicans and 2 Democrats have filed to run for agriculture commissioner in 2018. Florida Dept of State
  • Contributions totaling $4 million have been reported so far by the six candidates. Republican former state Rep. Baxter Griffin Troutman reported a personal contribution $2.5 million, far surpassing all others. Florida Dept of State
  • Matt Caldwell, Denise Grimsley square off for Florida’s agriculture commissioner. Both top Republicans with Lee County ties, they are among those running in what “promises to be the first competitive GOP primary in 25 years” for Florida’s agriculture commissioner. And there is already a flood of contributions from special interests. Naples Daily News

Stay tuned for my next post, where I’ll report on August’s top local government and school district news.

Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can read Sparker’s Soapbox online at or subscribe to posts by email at

News happens daily! Stay current with Sparker’s Soapbox on Facebook at or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

July 2017 Month in Review - Local News

Last month, Collier County Commissioners and staff continued to discuss how to address competing needs to pay for new growth as well as improvements to existing aging infrastructure. The Naples City Council also considered growth-related issues in July. The Collier County School Board approved the District’s tentative FY 2018 budget and adopted 2018 legislative priorities, and the District introduced new and exciting opportunities for students.

Top stories: Collier County

  • Collier ponders how to tax for roads, affordable housing, land conservation to wipe out a backlog of almost $50 million. Read more at
    • Related: Sales tax hike considered in Collier County. A one percent tax would generate about $70 million a year, according to Commissioner Burt Saunders. Read more at
  • Collier backs down on tax increase to conserve land after “strong opposition” from local real estate agents, Republican committee members and state representatives.  It will instead ask voters in a 2018 referendum whether they want to bring back a special tax to fund Conservation Collier to buy and convert preserve land. Read more at
  • Changes coming to Immokalee impact fees. Collier Commissioners approved a measure that will allow developers and future property owners in Immokalee to pay impact fees over 10, 20, or even 30 years rather than upfront. Read more at
  • Four sites owned by Collier County could be used for affordable housing. A decision on which, if any, of the lots to offer to developers will be made in September. Map here. Read more at
  • Collier looks to density to encourage more self-contained villages in the 77,000 acres immediately east of Collier Boulevard and north and south of Golden Gate Estates where planners expect a large part of the county’s projected population boom. Read more at
  • Collier approves closer-together high-rises near North Naples beach despite outcry from neighbors. Commissioners decided developers were following the code as it was written. Read more at
  • Estero the latest to bail on SWFL Regional Planning Council.. First Sarasota County, then Lee and Charlotte Counties left. And with Collier “on the brink of an exit,” the body is now starting to lose municipal members as well. Read more at
    • Related: Collier weighs halt in funding of Regional Planning Council; Immokalee’s “Promise Zone” funding might be at risk. Read more at
  • Collier County bans medical marijuana dispensaries, for now. Commissioners voted 4–1 to keep the dispensaries from opening until at least Dec. 31 so they can lobby state lawmakers for more control over the number of dispensaries that could open. Read more at
  • Work begins to keep Clam Pass in North Naples clear of sand for the third time in four years, just a year after a major dredging project. Read more at
  • Clam Bay manatee speed zone challenge set for September hearing in Tallahassee. The matter is the latest in a “long-standing feud” between Pelican Bay and the Seagate community over boating in Clam Bay. Read more at

Top editorials and commentaries: Collier County

  • Editorial: local sales tax - worth examining pluses, drawbacks.The County has much catching up to do on recession-delayed roads, bridges, parks and other infrastructure to manage both current and future growth. The question is how to pay for them. Read more at
    • Related Commentary: Sales tax possible way to pay for Collier projects. “We applaud” commissioners’ decision to determine where the “unmet critical capital needs” are, prioritize, and consider how to best fund them. By Michael Dalby, President and CEO - Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, at
    • Related Commentary: Tax increase discussions - enough already? People prioritize their needs and live within a budget. Counties should, too. By Janet Vasey, at
  • Commentary: Eye-popping number of high-end homes anchor Collier’s tax base, meaning the well-off pay a larger share of the cost of running county government and schools. By Brent Batten, at
  • Commentary: Ready, willing to remit bed taxes to Collier County. But “turning over personal identifiable information — including names and addresses — of our local hosts” to the County is “something we cannot do.” By Tom Martinelli, Policy Director, Airbnb Florida, at
    • Related Commentary: Home rentals a money vs. neighborhood issue. Very short-term, even daily, rentals in our residential neighborhoods “don’t belong” in our community. Read more from Bill Barnett, Mayor - Naples at
  • Commentary: North Collier, Immokalee fire discuss expanding “already successful” interlocal agreements to bolster efficiency. By Norman Feder, Chairman - North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District board of commissioners at
  • Commentary: How will ocean rise affect Collier County? There will be some inland flooding by 2050, and by 2100 many cities could be swamped. The timing is uncertain, but the end result is not. Read more from Linda Penniman, Vice Mayor - Naples, and Dave Trecker, vice chairman - Collier Citizens Council, at

Top stories: City of Naples

  • Plans show massive condo complex at former Naples Daily News site on Central Avenue. The project benefits from density bonuses approved by the Naples City Council. Read more at
  • Lawsuit charges Naples ignored precedent in denying redevelopment request. Developer wants to tear down and rebuild a single-family house at his property in Old Naples. Read more at
  • Naples officials considering no-boating zone near Lowdermilk Park. The proposal would exclude boating and personal watercraft within 500 feet of Lowdermilk’s coast at the beach end of Banyan Boulevard. Read more at

Top stories and editorials: Collier County Public Schools

  • School Board approves tentative $1 billion budget and a property tax millage rate of $5.1220 per $1,000, down from $5.234 per $1,000 this year. With increased property values, the lower millage rate will result in a 2 percent increase in dollars collected. The vote was 4–1. The board will vote again in September on a final budget, but the property tax rate is final. Read more at
  • Collier School Board adopts 2018 state legislative priorities. They include more time to implement new mandates, funding for major changes, and reduced testing. The 2018 legislative session begins in January. Read more at
  • Collier district expands Cambridge Programs to gifted and high-achieving elementary students. The district now offers the “rigorous curriculum aimed at developing critical thinking and skills fostering collaboration” in grades three through high school. It plans to expand it to kindergarten, first and second grades next year. Read more at
  • 14 Collier high school students attend National Flight Academy in Pensacola through a student enrichment program of the NAACP of Collier County in collaboration with School District. Read more at
  • Editorial: Collaboration makes Collier ready for children’s future. Behind-the-scenes over the past two years, a “blossoming network” called Future Ready Collier has drawn together about 40 organizations and public agencies to address two goals: to ensure all children are ready for kindergarten, and to make sure those finishing school will graduate on track to earn a degree or credential for employment. Read more at
  • Editorial: Local success a plus, state a minus for education in ’17. Kudos have come nonstop for Collier County Public Schools. Read more at

Election news

  • Roy Terry seeks re-election to Collier School Board District 5. Read more at
  • Also filed to run for election in 2018, according to the Collier Supervisor of Elections website:
    • Kathy Ryan - for School Board District 3
    • Andy Solis (REP) - for reelection to Board of County Commissioners District 2
    • Cecil G. Jorgensen (REP) - for Board of County Commissioners District 4
    • Candidates for County Judge Groups 1, 2 and 6
    • Candidates for Greater Naples Fire District Seats 3 and 4
  • 2018 Naples City Council candidates, according to Naples City Clerk website:
    • James Moon
    • Mitchell Norgart
    • Wynn Phillips

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