Wednesday, December 6, 2017

November Month in Review - Local News

The naming of Collier Schools Superintendent Kamela Patton as Superintendent of the Year by the Florida Consortium of Education Foundations topped the list of local news for November!

Patton was honored for her dedication to Future Ready Collier, an association of more than 50 organizations that try to help prepare children for kindergarten and high school students for college and careers.

So in this post, I’ll lead with news about our Collier County Public Schools, followed by news of our Collier County and Naples City government. Each of these bodies is overseen by people we elect, so awareness of the issues and decisions being made is important to be informed voters.

CCPS' Dr. Kamela Patton
Superintendent of the Year
Top stories - Collier Collier Public Schools
Top stories - County government

As we’ve been reading about in prior Months-in-Review, the Board of County Commissioners has several decisions to make in the coming months regarding how to manage the county’s growth, redevelopment, and aging infrastructure, as well as how to pay for it all.

A Naples Daily News editorial titled Post-recession and now after Irma, something has to give summarized the challenges this way:

Clogged Immokalee Road makes a parallel Vanderbilt Beach Road extension sensible; that’s $90 million as a start. Nearly a dozen bridges built circa 1960 are crumbling. The taxpayer-supported county jail is the No. 1 mental health holding center. Tens of millions of dollars for promised parks east of Naples don’t have a funding source. Medical device manufacturer Arthrex chose South Carolina for a 1,000-job expansion; it didn’t have an adequate, trained workforce here. Housing is too expensive for young professionals.
All that was true before Irma highlighted inadequacies of our sewage lift stations and drainage.
Here are several November articles about some of the challenges:
These articles discuss some of the competing arguments that make the “how to pay for it all” decision so difficult:
In addition to planning for the future, the more immediate county government business continued:
Our elected officials are also responsible for ensuring that the Hurricane Irma cleanup is completed as quickly as possible, that what should be done differently next time is identified, and that new procedures are put in place. In November’s news:
What a month! The number of challenging issues our elected county officials are dealing with on our behalf is almost overwhelming. November’s news provides good examples of the role of county government in our lives, and the importance of letting our voices be heard on decisions being made.

Meanwhile, in Naples City government …
Click here to participate
Your input is needed on a community needs study!

Whether you are a seasonal or year-round Collier resident, the Community Foundation of Collier County would like your help to determine Collier County's challenges. You are invited to participate by answering questions on a confidential survey being conducted by the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation.

Catch up anytime

Finally, in case you missed them, here are links to my three most recent posts:
You can find all past Sparker's Soapbox posts, dating back to 2010, in the Blog Archive at www.sparkers-soapbox.com.

Thank you for your interest in being an informed Collier County voter.

___________________________

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

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



Sunday, December 3, 2017

November 2017 Month in Review - State News

What did Florida's elected officials do last month in preparation for the 2018 legislative session that begins January 9th? What amendments is the Constitution Revision Commission considering for our November ballot? Have our local state representatives been in the paper lately? November's Month in Review shares some of the stories I found that address these questions.

As you read this post, consider what each bill, budget proposal or amendment says about its sponsor’s view of state government vs. local control, social policy or fiscal/tax policy. As informed voters, it is important to be aware of what’s being introduced and to let your representatives know if you do or don't agree and/or how you want them to vote.

Top stories - the Florida Legislature

In my last post about state news, I wrote that state senate and house committees had been meeting and legislators had begun filing bills ahead of the 2018 session and shared some of the early-filed bills that interested me. In this post, I’ll share reports on several more of the almost 2000 bills submitted to date.

This month, several articles were published about the controversial “Hope Scholarship” bill filed by Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Naples. It would allow public-school students to receive voucher-like scholarships to attend private schools if they have been bullied, harassed or subject to violence. (HB 1)

Supporters say it’s to help students who are victims of bullying. Critics say it’s more about expanding voucher programs, long one of the most-controversial education issues in Florida. News Service of Florida

Top stories - The governor’s budget proposal

Due to term limits, Gov. Scott cannot run for reelection next year. This month, he released his final budget proposal. Scott is widely expected to run for the U.S. Senate, challenging incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson. Treasure Coast Newspapers editorialized that “It's easy to be cynical about Gov. Rick Scott's final budget.”
The budget will likely not be finalized until the final days of the legislative session in March.

Top stories - Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission

Click here
The Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) is a group of 37 people appointed to review and recommend changes to the Florida Constitution. It’s one of five ways Florida can amend its constitution, and it only happens once every 20 years. Proposals it approves will be on our ballots next November. Learn more.

In all, 782 public proposals and 103 commissioner proposals were submitted for the Commission’s consideration. In last month’s post, I reviewed the CRC timetable and some of the then–40+ proposals that had been submitted by commissioners. Here’s my pick of November’s top stories:
Commissioner Erika Donalds’ views about the role of government are evidenced by the amendments she proposed and will become clearer when she votes on each proposal as it moves through the approval process.

Those views are relevant to Collier voters to the extent they shape her goals and actions as a School Board member. School Board members are elected by voters county-wide in non-partisan elections; the next School Board elections are in August 2018. Donalds’ current Board term ends next year; she has not yet filed for reelection.

Five of Donalds’ proposals, including those mentioned above, were included in last month’s post. These are her final three:
  • EDUCATION - P 45 -  specifies that no provision of the State Constitution may be construed to limit the Legislature from making provision for other educational services that are beneficial to the children and families of this state
  • EDUCATION - P 71 - specifies that the Legislature is authorized to enact general laws providing alternative processes to authorize the establishment of charter schools in the state
  • P 77 - a placeholder stating that the CRC intends to revise provisions in the Constitution’s Article VIII - Local Government
Other state news
Judge weighs legality of abortion waiting period. Lawyers representing a Gainesville abortion clinic requested a summary judgment finding a 2015 waiting-period law is an unconstitutional violation of women’s privacy rights. Gainesville Sun

Florida ranks 44th when it comes to mental health care access. Compared with states with similar populations, California was ranked 24th and Texas was ranked 39th. Health News Florida

It’s important to let your representatives know whether you agree or disagree with bills or proposals that will come before them and/or how you want them to vote. Find how to contact each of your representatives on the “Your Elected Officials” page of the Sparker's Soapbox website.

In my next post, I’ll report on November’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 www.sparkers-soapbox.com or subscribe to posts by email at tinyurl.com/subscribe-to-soapbox.

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

Sunday, November 5, 2017

October 2017 Month in Review - Local News

October's county, city, and school district news was again dominated by recovery efforts after Hurricane Irma. But there was also coverage of our elected officials' efforts to address ongoing challenges of the environment, health and human services, economic development, and school board and district operations.

Top stories - Hurricane Irma recovery


Top stories - environmental challenges


Top stories - Health and human services


Top stories - City of Naples


Top stories - Collier Schools


Top stories - other news


Did you know?

I've been writing Sparker's Soapbox with the goal of helping inform Collier voters since May 2014! The current Month in Review series began in May 2017. You can read and search past issues in the Blog Archive on my website, www.sparkers-soapbox.com. There you will also find a page on how to find your elected officials (here) as well as a page with links to the websites of the elected bodies that represent Collier voters (here).

Finally, in case you missed them, here are links to my three most recent posts:
Thank you for your interest in being an informed Collier County voter.

___________________________

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

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

Monday, October 30, 2017

October 2017 Month in Review - State News


This month, with little fanfare or publicity, online voter registration became available in Florida. County elections supervisors lobbied for it for years, and the Florida legislature approved it two years ago, wrote the Tampa Bay Times.

To me, that’s the most important state news of the month, as it should make it easier for people to register to vote and keep their registration current. New registrations and changes to name, address and party affiliation can be made on the state site here, or through the Collier Supervisor of Elections at colliervotes.com.

Getting to work in Tallahassee

In October, committees began meeting and legislators began filing bills for the 2018 legislative session that begins in January.

Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, who represents Collier County, chairs the powerful Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Pre-K - 12 Education. She is also Vice Chair of the Senate Health Policy Committee.

In the House, Rep. Bob Rommel, who represents western Collier, is Vice Chair of the Oversight, Transparency & Administration SubcommitteeRep. Byron Donalds, who represents central Collier and Hendry County, is Vice Chair of the PreK–12 Appropriations Subcommittee. And Rep. Carlos Trujillo, who represents eastern Collier and parts of Broward and Miami-Dade counties, chairs the powerful Appropriations Committee and is Alternating Chair of the Joint Legislative Budget Commission 

To date, over 600 bills have been submitted in the House and Senate; the filing deadline is January 9. More than 3,000 bills were submitted last year.

Here are some stories about bills that interest me.


Getting to work in the 2017–18 Florida Constitution Revision Commission

Click here
Every 20 years in Florida, a Constitution Revision Commission is appointed. It meets for approximately one year, traveling across the state, identifying issues, performing research and possibly recommending changes to the Florida Constitution. It holds public hearings to learn about issues that matter to Floridians and considers proposed constitutional amendments submitted by the public and by commissioners.

Over 2,000 public proposals were submitted to the 2017–18 CRC by the deadline of October 6; list here.

Out of the 2,000-plus ideas, the commission agreed to “sponsor” (i.e. consider further) only six (list here) — an acceptance rate of .3 percent. The League of Women Voters of Florida and 10 other organizations protested this result in a letter to the CRC Chairman and Commission members:

(You) issued a stunning rejection of the thousands of Floridians who invested considerable time and effort to share their ideas and draft proposals for improving their constitution…. (T)his commission’s actions are brazenly dismissive of the concerns and suggestions of Floridians.  


October 31 is the deadline for commissioners to submit their own proposals. Over 40 were submitted through October 28; list here. Of note:


Also of note: CRC Commissioner Erika Donalds, a Collier County School Board member who is married to Rep. Byron Donalds, submitted five proposed amendments. They are:


Call to action: If there is a proposed amendment that you do not want to see moved forward to the 2018 ballot, let your voice be heard! The CRC will consider public input on proposals prior to their final vote. You can email Commissioners directly here.

Other top stories


An important exposé

Click here

In my next post, I’ll report on October’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 www.sparkers-soapbox.com or subscribe to posts by email at tinyurl.com/subscribe-to-soapbox.

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