Saturday, April 17, 2021

EDITORIAL: Highway Robbery

By Patricia Huff

The title of this article is not my own but came from someone who believes this is what is happening to Mamie Street.

On Thursday, October 10, District 5 Commissioner Tim Nance along with County Attorney Jeff Klatzkow; Nick Casalanguida, Administrator of the Growth Management Division; and Richard Grant, Attorney for the Smallwood Store & Museum, met with Chokoloskee neighbors and the public to discuss the settlement agreement whereby Collier County would “vacate” Mamie Street which would then become the private road of Florida-Georgia Grove LLP.

Thirty-six people attended the meeting, most of whom voiced their opposition to the County vacating the road. The attorneys presented their position about any future court proceedings and stated that there were no guarantees. Although this was a meeting for the public, the county staff said that they would take into consideration only those who had a “direct” interest in Mamie Street (the property owners who lived along the road) and that the public has only an “indirect” interest. County Attorney Klatzkow also stated “The County will NOT vacate the road if there is opposition.” When questioned, he clarified “opposition” as meaning opposition from those who had a “direct” interest, not the “public” opposition.

Now, the question is: who is and what does “public” mean? If there is a public process, a public meeting, a public hearing, and a public road, should a decision be based on the public agreement or opposition? According to Webster’s Dictionary, the word “public” is defined as:

1. “of, belonging to, or concerning the people as a whole”

2. “for the use or benefit of all; as, a public building” (or road in this case)

3. “acting in an official capacity on behalf of the people as a whole; as a public prosecutor” (or a public official in this case)

4. “known by, or open to the knowledge of, all or most people; as, he will make this information public”

So, does the County serve the “public” or only “direct” interest parties?

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