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Missy Layfield - Editor
2 hours ago Delete

What Part of Yes Don’t They Understand

Last November 75% of Florida voters sent a message to the Florida Legislature: We want designated funds used for land and water conservation. It isn’t often that such a large number of voters are so clear on an issue.

Fort Myers Beach voters were even more insistent, with over 82% of voters voting yes on Amendment 1.

Unfortunately, the Florida Legislature hasn’t heard the message.

Amendment 1 called for 33% of documentary stamp taxes to be used to acquire and restore Florida conservation and recreation lands for the next 20 years.

The first thing the Legislature did was pull funding for affordable housing, also funded by the documentary stamp fees. They could have adjusted the amount of stamp fees going into the general fund, but apparently needed to make a statement about the effects of Amendment 1. "See what you foolish people made us do?” Once their point was made, they magically found the funding to restore the full amount that the affordable housing trust fund would have received before Amendment 1 before passing the bill along. Seems childish, doesn’t it?

Another tack they’re trying is to use Amendment 1 funding to cover existing administration costs for the Department of Environmental Protection or pay for park ranger salaries rather than invest in new land and water projects.

See, if they use Amendment 1 funds for those things, then they can take the money that would have paid for the DEP and ...
1 week ago, 03/19/2015 at 4:56pm Delete

Sunshine Week

Sunshine Week is observed this week across the country and right here in Florida. This is an annual reminder that government is supposed to work for you, the citizen. All the workings of government – the meetings, the phone calls, the emails, the videos, the deliberations – are accessible to every citizen, whether present in the moment or not. Sunshine laws protect that accessibility.

Transparency has been much in the news lately, what with Hillary Clinton’s emails and Governor Scott’s, well, it’s hard to pick just one instance of the lack of transparency in the Governor’s office.

Government in the Sunshine Law (F.S. 286.011) and Public Records Law (F.S. 119) open government meetings and public records to citizens. For years Florida has been hailed as a pioneer of government transparency, passing a Public Records Law in 1909. The Government in the Sunshine Law was enacted in 1967. Unfortunately, it’s time to climb down from that pedestal.

Since 2002, Florida has created 138 new exemptions to those laws. We ran into one of those exemptions in the last month when we requested a copy of an anonymous letter making accusations against Fire Department staff. Turns out that such letters are exempt from release as a public record by state law until the governing board makes a decision on whether to investigate the accusations or not. Only then is the letter a public record. One could surmise then that if the board chose not to act on it, it would remain exempt indefinitely. Not exactly in the sunshine, is it?
3 weeks ago, 03/12/2015 Delete

Shrimp Festival

This weekend is the busiest weekend on Fort Myers Beach. Our Island fills up to overflowing with seasonal visitors, day-trippers, vacationers, locals and it seems half of Lee County.

Its Shrimp Festival Weekend!

For the 57thyear, the Shrimp Festival will draw thousands to our slice of paradise for a fun weekend. Filled with a 5K run, a parade, a Shrimp Queen Pageant, a new Shrimp-Eating Championship and two full days of Lions Shrimp Dinners plus bargain-shopping at the Expo, theres something for everyone of every age.

This grand 2-day Shrimp Festival had its beginnings in a modest "Beach Day” event, the final event of the Edison Festival of Light Celebration. While the first Blessing of the Shrimp Fleet occurred in December 1952, the Blessing became part of Beach Day in 1954 as St. Raphaels Episcopal Church brought their Bishop to the Beach for the Blessing of the Shrimp Fleet on the Beach Pier and sold Shrimp Rolls in the park. A parade, barbeque and beauty pageant rounded out those early celebrations.

After a few years, Beach Day grew into its own celebration, separate from the Edison Festival and the Shrimp Festival was born in 1959. The Fort Myers Beach Lions Club sponsored the weekend festival, selling BBQ chicken for a few years until someone suggested that shrimp might be a better choice. They laugh about that now.

Whether you ride on a float or dance down the street or just claim your spot on the curb, you are participating in a parade that has traveled that same stretch of pavement for over 50 years. Thats something worth appreciating.
3 weeks ago, 03/05/2015 at 3:24pm Delete

Island Kudos

The Sand Paper family is committed to sharing the good news about our Island community. We use this space every couple of months to focus on some of the good things happening and the numerous generous people who make our Island a better place to live, work and play. Kudos this week go out to…

All the volunteers who have stepped up to "Adopt a Beach.”There’s room for more volunteers-call 239-233-8542 to sign up.

Members of the Community Resources Advisory Board (CRAB) for their work on Bayside Access Parks at Del Mar and Gulf Beach Road and for hosting another successful Leadership Conference last weekend.

Friends of the Arts for their Concert Series which wrapped up Thursday, March 5th, raising funds to support the arts on Fort Myers Beach.

Estero Island Garden Club members for celebrating Arbor Day with the 4th graders at Beach School, providing them with Sabal Palm seedlings and teaching them about trees. Also for their ongoing efforts to beautify our Island.

Lee County’s Andrew Payne for coordinating a new opportunity to enjoy the beach, "Sundown Sing Along”has brought up to 30 people together to enjoy some acoustic music and a stunning sunset in Bowditch Point Park a couple times a month.

Friends of Matanzas Pass Preserve for hosting another successful Casino Night to fund classroom space and restroom facilities at the Preserve.

Amateur Radio Operators Bill Genevrino, John Tozier, Ed Milde, Bud Nocera and Joyce Jacobs, to name just a few, who are part of the ham radio network that is essential when disaster strikes.