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Missy Layfield - Editor
03/29/2012 at 3:40pm Delete

Here at the Sand Paper, we like to take the time every couple months to recognize some of the Islanders whose efforts make our Island a better place for all of us. Kudos go out to….

The new CERT members who have completed training and joined our well respected island Community Emergency Response Team. Thank you to new members Judith Auge, Edward Kemp, Margaret Weslow, John Jorde, Bev Jenkins, Wayne Weslow, Richard Jenkins, Linda Andrews, Doug Gentry Tom Babcock and Bobbi Kemp.

Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation for hosting educational opportunities like the recent Conservation Forum on water use. They brought renowned environmentalist Cynthia Barnett to the area, who encouraged us all to develop a "water ethic”-a new way to think about water.

Fort Myers Beach Fire District, Town Council and CERT for teaming up to present Heart Disease Awareness Day in February. Firefighters, paramedics and CERT member teamed up to provide blood pressure screenings and healthy heart education in Times Square.

Local fisherman Jerry Stephenson, who with his team, Bimini Twist, won the Key West Harbour King Mackerel Tournament.

Merle and Grace Smith, who celebrated 67 years of marriage while visiting the island.

All the churches and organizations that bring concerts, speakers and events to Islanders, especially during season.

Builders Care, a group of local contractors who provide emergency repairs and construction services to elderly, disabled and economically disadvantaged people who need help. They built a new ramp for Beach resident Jane Hague recently.

Friends of Matanzas Pass Preserve and all those who teamed up to present Visions of the Past in the Preserve. This fascinating program attracted a large crowd of curious Islanders. Everyone came away knowing more about the Calusas, Early Settlers, Pirates, Spaniards, Pioneers and Koreshans.

03/22/2012 at 4:43pm Delete

Have you ever spoken to your elected public officials during a public meeting?

We are fortunate that the local governing boards of our Town, Fire District, Library and County all allow ample public comment during their public meetings.

But Florida law does not require them to do so. It requires them to allow citizens to attend public meetings and to request public documents, but it does not allow citizens the right to speak at public meetings.

In 2010, this gap in the otherwise widely-touted Florida Sunshine Law was made apparent when two state district courts of appeal determined that there is no specific right to speak afforded by either the Florida Constitution or by state statute. Those cases involved situations where local boards had completely shut down all public comment at meetings.

The Florida Legislature has had two sessions to correct this. There has been overwhelming bi-partisan support for a bill to guarantee the public’s right to speak at public meetings.

Yet they have failed to pass a bill that does so.

In 2011, a bill was introduced and not passed.

In 2012, a bill was once again introduced. It sailed through three Senate committees and was approved by the full Florida Senate with a vote of 40-0, without debate.

It then sailed through three House committees. It needed only to be brought to the House floor for a vote, where the majority of representatives supported it.

This was looking like it was a sure thing.

03/15/2012 at 4:21pm Delete

We live in a beautiful place. This time of year we share our beautiful piece of paradise with thousands of visitors, some of them will stay here for months, some for weeks, some for only a night or two.

All of them come to enjoy our laid-back island hospitality. The pace of life is slower here than where most of our visitors are from. Our traffic, while painfully slow this time of year is still less hectic than the 6 lanes of bumper to bumper, 75 mph that many freeways are elsewhere.

It’s easy to let down your guard here.

That’s why people go on vacation, to relax and not worry about the things they have to worry about at home.

Tragically, last Friday night, Mary Ann Hechimovich of Wisconsin died while trying to cross Estero Blvd. It was dark. There was no crosswalk at that spot.

And a family is grieving the sudden loss of a beloved wife, mother and grandmother.

I was at the scene shortly after the accident and the somber mood of the deputies, firefighters, EMS and state patrol as well as the people who were stranded on either side of the accident scene spoke volumes about their sadness at the senseless loss of a life over something as simple as crossing the street.

Last year several crosswalk signs were put in place to call attention to the state law that requires all drivers to stop for pedestrians in designated crosswalks. They seem to be helping.

But only if pedestrians are in the crosswalk and drivers can see them, a challenge in the dark.

We could put crosswalks every 100 feet, and there would still be people crossing the street in other places. In New York City, you’d be a fool to try to cross a busy street in the middle of the block. But here, in laid back Fort Myers Beach, visitors tend to cross wherever it’s convenient.

03/08/2012 at 4:40pm Delete

Welcome to the biggest weekend of the year on Fort Myers Beach!

Not only is Spring Break in session, but it’s Shrimp Festival weekend!

The 54th Annual Lions Club Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival takes center stage this weekend as thousands of visitors descend on the beach for our annual celebration of all things SHRIMP!

The Shrimp industry, based on San Carlos Island is a vital component of the economic engine that drives our community. It involves not just the shrimpers who take their boats out into the Gulf to harvest that "pink gold,” but the companies who process and sell it, the stores and restaurants that buy it and the patrons and shoppers who consume our local shrimp. They are all integral parts of the shrimp industry.

We have tried to give our readers a glimpse into the shrimp business and its many facets in our paper this month and in the March Entertainment Magazine. From the gulf to the boat to the dock to the table. This week we give you a look at some of the locations you’ll find local shrimp on the menu.

One place I can guarantee that you’ll be eating local shrimp is at the Lions Club Shrimp Dinners this weekend. Thousands of Shrimp Festival attendees will sample the delectable local fare cooked by our very own Lions Club members in a tradition handed down over decades of Shrimp Dinners. They will run out, so if you want your own plate of Gulf shrimp, fresh off the boat, get yours early.

In working with the Lions Club, I’ve come to appreciate the absolutely phenomenal job they do with the Shrimp Festival each year. This multi-faceted festival, including the Parade, Queen Pageant, Food, Fun & Crafts Expo & Shrimp Dinners takes an army of Lions Club members, volunteers and public safety personnel to coordinate it all. And it runs smoothly each year.