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Missy Layfield - Editor
03/28/2013 at 4:15pm Delete

Happy Easter

While Easter symbolizes rebirth and a fresh start for both religious and secular celebrations, finding a way to illustrate that here in the land of perpetual greenery and flowers can be difficult compared to northern climes where early Spring growth is just beginning, if they can find it under the snow that is. Maybe our return to warmer temperatures will help this weekend feel like spring. In any case, we wish a Happy Easter to all of our readers!

This time of year finds many of our visitors packing their bags to head back north. With the busy April calendar, we hope many of them are tempted to remain on the Beach for a few weeks longer. From Sand Bash beginning next Friday, April 5th to the Fort Myers Beach Film Fest on April 24th-28th and Taste of the Beach on April 28th, there are great reasons to stick around.We hope you do!

One of our visitors departing this weekend is the Privateer Lynx. First coming to our shores in January for what was to be a three-week visit, the Lynx Educational Foundation appreciated the island hospitality they found here and decided to make Fort Myers Beach their winter port returning to stay through the end of March. They sail now to St. Petersburg and West Palm Beach before heading north for this summer’s Great Lakes tour. Look for their return to our shores later this fall once hurricane season has passed.

Speaking of hurricane season, we know that seasonal property owners prepare their properties for hurricanes before they depart. We hope they also prepare their properties for Turtle Season. Turtle Season is May 1-October 31. Last year we had a record number of nests, though many were washed out by our tropical storms. Do your part now, before you leave, to help turtle nesting-if you have a property on or near the beach, make sure that you don’t have lights left on that can be seen from the beach. Remove any beach furniture. Want to know why we need to do these things? Check with Turtetime.org.

03/21/2013 at 4:12pm Delete

Let’s Get Real on Estero Boulevard

On Monday, Town Council discussed the possibility of taking over the renovation of Estero Boulevard.On Tuesday, Lee County Commissioner Tammy Hall asked the Board of County Commissioners to consider paying the Tourist Development Council $985,000 for the Seafarer’s would-be parking lot so it can be used for something else.Commissioner Larry Kiker then brought up the funding of Estero Boulevard renovation work.

More talk at the Town and County level. Which pales when compared to the amount of talk by Islanders in coffee shops and bars about traffic and the boulevard. In the back and forth cycle of Estero renovation, we seem to be on an upward swing of the pendulum right now.

Long time residents warn us not to get excited because they’ve seen it all before, several times in fact. And they’re right.

The Estero Boulevard Improvements Project, that anyone can look at on the Town’s website, is a repository of Estero Boulevard dreams. There’s the Town’s Streetscape Master Plan from 2001 and several 2008 analysis and design reports. There seems to be an abundance of information and resident input available already.Yet, the county continues to seek more design input.

Not that involving residents is bad; normally we’re fighting for more opportunities for citizen input, but it seems that Islanders have already spoken-several times-on this issue.

The introduction of the 2001 Streetscape Report says, "Walking along Estero Boulevard today is frequently unsafe, uncomfortable, and unwelcoming. Shade is limited. The corridor offers no safe walking or bicycling access to Times Square, the Civic Complex, The Quiet Center, Santini Plaza, and most area businesses.”

"Estero Boulevard has no clear sense of place, uniformity, or identity. It also lacks opportunities to support social and civic events, which are necessary to transform it into the island’s premier public space.”
03/14/2013 at 3:12pm Delete

Forecast: More Sunshine

Florida, the Sunshine State, has stood for decades as a leader in Government in the Sunshine laws. This week we celebrate Sunshine Week in Florida.

Our open records and open meetings laws have been imitated by other states. But it might be time to quit patting ourselves on the back for this. It might be time to take a close look at a few issues that are not quite exemplary of Government in the Sunshine in our fair state.

Right now, citizens do not have the right to speak at public meetings. You might not know that because all of our local boards 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 failed to correct this gap in the Sunshine Law in 2011 and 2012. Another attempt is making its way through the House and Senate in Tallahassee this year. (SB 50/HB 23) Failure to guarantee this most basic right of Florida citizens in a participatory democracy is shameful and shows a complete lack of commitment to the concept of Government in the Sunshine. Will the Legislature close this gap this year?

Citizens have the right to request public records of government agencies. The Sunshine Law spells out those rights, including how much citizens can be charged for copies of those records. Inspection of records without copies is usually free.
03/07/2013 at 3:24pm Delete

We Are All Islanders

Here at the Sand Paper, we consistently tell people that we write the Sand Paper for Islanders. We are a community newspaper "By Islanders, For Islanders.”

So, who is an Islander?

To start with, the locals are – those lucky and hearty souls who live here year round. They’re the ones who make this corner of paradise hum, the heart and soul of the Beach. They care for our Island because it’s their home. They also bring us some of our best story ideas. We don’t write stories on every suggestion, but we do consider each one and if a good number of Islanders would be interested in that story, we’ll dig into the story and write it.

Islanders also include those who, while they don’t sleep on the island, are here most days because they work or play here. They live nearby and feel very much a part of our island. These Islanders also have an interest in what happens on Fort Myers Beach. We know this because our paper boxes in our 33908 zip code distribution area empty out so fast on Friday mornings that we get calls accusing us of not filling them. Get there early on Friday morning folks for your copy of the Sand Paper!

Our definition of Islanders also extends to those who live here only part of the year, whether it’s a week, a month or 6 months. We know that they also have an interest in what happens on our island. Our subscription list tells us that when they go home, whether to Alaska, Ontario or Indiana, many of them are still very interested in what happens here and follow Island events and news year round via online or hard copy Sand Paper subscriptions. In January over 52,000 people visited our website to check in with the island. We know people are very interested in what happens on Fort Myers Beach, whether they are here or not.

We write the Sand Paper for all those different Islanders. They’re all interested in different stories, so we put a variety of stories in each issue.