As a community that sought to control its own destiny from this side of the bridge 22 years ago, we debated the issues surrounding cityhood. I thought it might be important now to reflect upon that exercise and see how far we’ve come.
I thought this might be a good time to do this as we prepare to appoint advisory committees that may help us mold the future and what it might hold for us.
I distinctly recall the angst within the community as we reviewed the dollars being sent into Collier County each year from our ad valorem taxes. Has that been reduced since the inception of cityhood, or has there been a marked increase in the return on those revenues sent to the county? I’m not sure what has been accomplished, regardless of the political posturing for votes every two years.
We actually gave back $3 million of your money to the county to resolve the long-debated issues concerning the Goodland Drive fiasco. The county showed they had better negotiators back then when we assumed responsibility for that short section of roadway. The county is now preparing to institute the original proposal to fix that section of flooding roadway, as the city proposed years ago but was stymied due to concerns from ecological groups, who refused to sign off on the plans.
The poorly maintained older Mackle Park Center has finally been replaced after much delay and debate. The result is that we paid for it entirely out of our pockets, while a new center and complete recreation complex was built by the county in East Naples, in part with your monies from ad valorem taxes, and it even included a beautiful aquatic center.
Now, I’m not debating the need for that facility on the East Trail, but the impact that is being felt on the island from those living along the 951 corridor is significant, and it will continue to grow as those residents look to access more of the services we supply with no help from the county. The City of Naples does receive a county block grant each year in recognition of the impact on their city services within their community.
Now I don’t want to appear to be focusing entirely on county government. I’m just pointing out the obvious in regard to the inequities. I could write reams about how unfair the Collier County School District has been to the two outstanding Charter Schools that happen to be located here on the island. I do understand the continued battle for adequate funding in all areas of education, whether they be related to the Collier County Public Schools or those Public Charter Schools within Collier County.
I applaud the efforts of the Public Charter Schools’ Boards of Directors for their vigilant oversight of the fiscal needs of those educational institutions. I congratulate them for the wonderful product they are producing. I would just hope some of the multi-millions of dollars that we send to the state, in addition to those we send to Collier County when we pay our taxes each year, might be returned directly to those Public Charter Schools. Take a look at your tax bill that you’ve received, and do the math.
I understand that there are those who disagree about the necessity of public charter schools. However, they have proven that they produce a wonderful educational experience for those students attending.
Citizens have been taking a strong look at how the future of our island might be impacted over the next decade. One of the ways this will be dictated is through the city’s process of planning and zoning. We are spending close to $140,000 to update the community’s Comprehensive Plan, which is our city’s roadmap to ensuring we have an appropriate plan in place. That document must then be submitted to the State of Florida to become the governing planning document for our community.
As I sit here and type this, the City Council is preparing to appoint members to our Planning Board. Who are they and who will they represent? Do they all come from a certain faction within the community or are we looking to having a well-balanced board?
Should a board like this only represent a certain segment of the community or should we be looking at ensuring all viewpoints are heard? As for me, I would like to see a far different appointment practice, not one that rewards contributors or collaborators of elected officials. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a contractor, a business owner, a member from the financial field, someone from the real estate industry as well as others. Let’s make sure we don’t “pack the deck” here, ensuring we have a well-balanced field of appointees.
It is important to reflect back on how we got here today. Have we accomplished the goals we set forth for ourselves in regard to incorporation? If we haven’t, how do we put the train back on the tracks?