It’s been mentioned recently in a few ways that the commissioners are off for six weeks in the summer months. Many people are not aware of how that started in the first place, so let me bring you up to date. Back in the ‘90s many decisions regarding confrontational issues were decided in the summer months while the residents were up north for the summer and no one could complain or object to the issues. It got so bad that the community complained loudly and the newspapers accused the developers of presenting their controversial issues to the commissioners while the residents were out of town. The commissioners heard the loud outcry and acquiesced. They decided to hear all land use issues and any other controversial issues while the majority of residents were in town. Even now people will challenge the BCC about making a decision too close to the summer, but the BCC have stuck to only half of July and all of August for their summer sabbatical out of respect for the community. All of the commissioners have computers and a phone and all commissioners come into the office or have very competent aides who keep things up to date when they are gone. Just imagine the BCC making land use issues when no one can object or present facts on their behalf. There would be a terrific uprising if people were kept in the dark about issues that affect their property or their community. It’s something to think about, for sure.
◼ It was amazing to see how many cars stayed in town until July this year! There used to be a procession leaving town the day after Easter, but each year people stay longer and longer. There are more things to do now than there used to be, but once July gets here, along with the high humidity, especially for people with breathing problems, people decide to go on a vacation or visit the family in the northern USA. Summer cruises are very popular as well. But the important thing to say is that people are staying longer and enjoying more of what the community has to offer.
◼ Each year the county receives HUD dollars to distribute to agencies or organizations that serve the less fortunate residents in our community. There are many needs! Some needs I wish we would serve are for sidewalks in areas that still, after long years, have no sidewalks; or pockets of poverty where they have no street lights for safety. Of course there are others that deserve this money as well, so how can you really choose, but some agencies get most of the money that HUD provides. Others get a small portion but not what they requested. Still we give $1.8 million to just one corporation to buy even more land than they already own, while others go without. The other commissioners all felt that the largest amount should again go to this agency, so I almost begged that they at least distribute that land that they buy equitably throughout the county where the jobs are rather than continue to pour all the affordable housing away from the jobs in North Naples and the City of Naples. But with a 4-1 vote (and a bunch of men from North Naples who have no affordable housing in their area calling the East Naples people NIMBY’S and asking for the money to go to Habitat as well), Commissioner Penny Taylor made a motion to accept the recommendation for the majority of the money to again go to Habitat, to which I asked to at least distribute that housing more equitably around the county, and she said NO, the vote stands the way she said! ! She has said she wanted to build the low income affordable housing in “her district” which includes Bayshore, Thomasson, Isles of Collier Preserve, Countryside, Fox Fire, Brookside, and the City of Naples and more, but of course the City of Naples does not want it in their area even though they need the workers to work all the hotels, restaurants, office buildings, high-rises, etc. (they are in the process of getting rid of all that type of housing) but they want them “near the city” as Councilwoman Linda Penniman said, so people can still get to work. Where is “near”? Want to guess? Are there jobs in our area? We have no hotels, very few restaurants, no high rises, and no office buildings. Also, the East Naples community at large is divided into THREE commission districts. That makes the figures confusing when it comes to the count of who has what.
I think I’ve said enough on this subject, as it tears my heart out to see that we cannot protect ourselves because the other two commissioners who represent part of our district do not vote in our favor, but for the wealthy part of their district, and the other two voted with them.
I’d like to end on a positive note, but right now I cannot think of one. I’ll try in the next column.