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Missy Layfield - Editor
02/23/2012 at 5:00pm Delete

Lots of news out of Tallahassee as the Legislature starts to wind up its two month session.

The best news from our state capital was the apparent abandonment of a bill that would have given lawmakers immunity from testifying in court or even the requirement to turn over documents. The bill would have allowed legislators to block the testimony of their staff members also. The law would have given "legislative privilege” to all current and former lawmakers and their staff. That privilege includes not being required to turn over documents produced in legislative work. It would have extended this privilege even after the death of a lawmaker.

Does that sound like government in the Florida Sunshine?

While denied by Legislative leaders, opponents of the new redistricting maps claim it was an attempt by lawmakers to shield the motives and actions of those involved in the redistricting process in the coming court battles.

For there will surely be court battles ahead for the redistricting maps. They’ve been passed by both Chambers of the Florida Legislature and signed by Governor Scott. They are currently before the Florida Supreme Court that has until March 9 to approve or reject the maps. Oral arguments will be February 29th.

Both sides of the debate have weighed in. Attorney General Pam Bondi, with lawyers for the Senate and House have asked the Supreme Court to do an "extremely limited facial review,” meaning she wants the court to presume the plans are valid and not look at the plans too closely.

A coalition of voter’s groups along with the Democratic Party claim that the maps are "blatant partisan and incumbent-protection plans and they must be invalidated with instructions to the Legislature to draw plans.”

02/16/2012 at 4:16pm Delete

Can it be election time already?

We have been busy keeping track of entries into local races that won’t be voted on until November. National offices, like President, Vice-President, Congress and Senate campaigns have been in high gear for months, as anyone with a TV or email address has noticed, but it’s unusual for local campaigns to get rolling nine months before Election Day.

And it is early. To qualify by petition, a candidate for county and special district office must file it by May 7. The qualifying period is June 4-8 for federal, state, county and district offices. The Primary is set for August 14 with the General Election on November 6. All these details are available to anyone at

There are already two challengers that we know of for the District 3 County Commission seat currently held by Ray Judah. Mayor Larry Kiker announced his candidacy unofficially at his recent 60th birthday party and is set to do so officially next week. Charlie Whitehead, retired newsman and Little League leader, announced his intention to run for District 3 Commissioner last August.

Come November there will be several seats on local special district boards on the ballot. The Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District Board of Commissioners have two out of five seats up for election: Seat 2, currently held by Betty Goodacre and Seat 4, currently held by John Scanlon. The Mosquito Control Board has two out of three seats on the ballot: Seat 2 held by Joanne Semmer and Seat 3 held by Margaret Whipple.

But the local offices gathering the greatest early interest are the Fort Myers Beach Library Board of Directors where there are three seats up for election on the seven member board: Seat 5, now held by Sallie Seabury; Seat 6, now held by Laurie Wolf and Seat 7 currently held by Judy FitzSimons.

02/09/2012 at 4:07pm Delete

There has been a quiet changing of the guard for a few well-established and iconic events in our town.

Our town is now 16 years old, an adolescent in town years. Some events that pull our community together and give us a unique identity have been managed by the same generous volunteers since our Town began or even before incorporation. The time for transitions has arrived.

The Civic Association has coordinated the Town’s Birthday Party each New Year’s Eve for the first 15 years of the Town’s existence. They shared thousands of cupcakes over the years for this annual community party. We’ve thanked the Civic Association for those efforts and hope others have also. This year, they handed the reins of that party over to the Town. And they kept the tradition going with a day of music, fun and yes, more cupcakes.

Will it remain a Town endeavor or will a volunteer group step up and offer their organizational expertise and time once a year to help mark our Town’s birthday?

This week we learned that another key player in New Year’s Eve on the Island, the Semmer Team, is retiring from the fireworks business. The Semmer team, made up of Shirley, Bill and Joanne Semmer, additional family members and employees of Semmer Electric, have done yeoman’s work coordinating the Beach’s iconic fireworks on New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July for 23 years delighting young and old alike.

On Monday, they announced their retirement to the Town Council, thanking Council for allowing the Semmer Team to be a part of the Town’s celebration. They also thanked the businesses that have supported the fireworks efforts and recognized the hundreds of volunteers who have worked with them as well as Garden State Fireworks for their part in the semi-annual show.

02/02/2012 at 4:57pm Delete

As our island fills with visitors for our busiest season, we hear from many visitors wondering what’s been happening on our Island since last season. The answer of course, is quite a bit as we are an active year-round community. What they really want to know is how the issues of last spring turned out.

The highlights for visitors based on the questions we hear are these…

Beach renourishmment for the north end of the Island, begun in May, wrapped up in December. There’s 300 feet of new sand from Bowditch Point to Crescent Beach Family Park.

Speaking of Crescent Beach Family Park, Lee County opened this new Gulf-front park with volleyball courts, tables, landscaping and lots of sand. The county also has been hard at work with Pier renovations, so stop by and visit our new park, pier and sand!

The Seafarer’s mall came down in June. Currently Lee County plans to pave it for a ground level parking lot. That debate continues.

All of the Island beach accesses now have recycling bins. Please use them! Let’s keep our beach clean!

You’ll notice a lot of signage changes on the Island. A sign ordinance was approved after 11 years in the making, so everywhere you look these days a sign is coming down or going up.

The Beach Library broke ground in April for their expansion and expects to have it completed this spring. Look for a Grand Opening this fall after renovations on the existing building are complete.

The Town has completed the north end of Estero Blvd, north of the skybridge. New road, bike lanes, sidewalks and landscaping. We can only wish the county will do as well with the rest of Estero when they get around to redoing it.