It’s that time of year again. Break out the pad and pencil and start thinking about how 2014 is going to be different than 2013 or 2012 or 2003. It’s never a bad idea to give some thoughtful consideration to where you’ve been and where you’re going and New Year’s Day is the perfect time for that.
Here are a few of our Island wishes for 2014…
A safe year for residents and visitors – those on foot, on two wheels and behind the wheel. No traffic fatalities, no pedestrian casualties.
Thoughtful and civil conversation on community issues. Not every difference of opinion should lead to estrangement and the conclusion that the person holding a different opinion is uninformed and the enemy. No doubt tied to our national tendency to vilify anyone who doesn’t agree with us 100%, it is much more damaging in a small community than it is on the national stage. We need to work with each other on community projects down the road. If we all dug our heels in and stopped working with each other, most of the wonderful community efforts we all support would disappear.
Engagement in government on a regular basis. It’s sad to see month after month of meetings for governmental bodies where only a handful of citizens show up. In some cases, no one other than the board and the press attend meetings. We know it’s not because everyone is thrilled with the board’s decisions, because the room fills up for budget hearings in September.
Public restrooms for visitors and islanders who enjoy our beach.
Progress on the Seafarer’s property, still sitting idle with weeds growing at the most visible corner of our island. The lovely beach scenes painted by our Island kids to screen this eyesore have begun fading while waiting for movement on this property.
Progress on our water utility, storm water and Estero Blvd projects. All three are long awaited and sorely needed. We’re all pretty hopeful now as these projects begin, let’s hope that progress is steady and results visible soon.
Short and long-term solutions to our Lake Okeechobee water release problems, both the over-abundance of polluted water in the rainy season as the Army Corps keeps the lake level low to protect the dike; and the under-supply during the dry season, when low water flow increases salinity in the Caloosahatchee River threatening wildlife.
Continued support for the many benefits and fundraisers that help our neighbors in need throughout the year.
Growth of our Island service clubs. The Beach’s Lions, Kiwanis, Community Foundation Clubs and others support many worthy Island causes from the Beach School to eyecare for our elderly to just about every worthy cause you can imagine. They do this through the hard work of their members, who also seem to have a pretty good time. The more members they have, the more work they can do. Consider joining one of these groups and supporting our community through their good works.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY FORT MYERS BEACH
Happy 18th birthday! While our community has been around for much longer, the Town of Fort Myers Beach celebrates its 18th birthday on December 31st. There will be cupcakes in the afternoon with live music in Time Square followed by fireworks at midnight. We hope everyone takes the opportunity to enjoy the party!
Like any adolescent, our Town has had a few growing pains in the last few years. While our population has not grown dramatically, the Town has matured in those 18 years. We are a different Town than we were when we began. To some degree, our residents are different people with different visions than they were when the clock struck midnight in 1995. Which, of course, is why the Town hosts a periodic check up on how residents view their Town and what they hope for the future.
There are those who would deny any vision but theirs, or would demand that we cling to a vision spelled out 18 years ago. But that is not fair to Town residents who were not here 18 years ago or those who were and whose vision has grown.
Questioning the 1995 vision, clarifying it or expanding it
Right now, we’re embroiled in a controversy about elevated pools. Lawyers have said our Town code is not clear on the subject. Some residents claim it’s just common sense. Unfortunately, our world is one of legal interpretations, not necessarily common sense, no matter how much residents want a simple common sense interpretation of complex legal documents. The world does not work that way.
I can certainly appreciate wanting to run our town in as simple a manner as possible. Why not just ask the people affected by this or any other project what they think-how do they interpret the town code? For starters, we’d get a variety of opinions, but mostly, the Town would find itself in court, defending those decisions and losing. And that comes out or resident’s pockets.
Fortunately, our Town Council and staff are willing to seek independent advice and listen to their lawyers as they carefully work their way out of this quagmire.
But it’s time to take a hard look at our Town documents, the Comprehensive Plan and the Land Development Code to make sure that they both reflect what residents of Fort Myers Beach want for their community. Let’s not wait for the next quagmire to emerge before we recognize that we need to update our codes.
So, Happy Birthday Fort Myers Beach! May you emerge from your current growing pains stronger and more vital than ever!