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Missy Layfield - Editor
05/30/2013 at 3:41pm Delete

Cooperation

The recent news that the Florida Department of Transportation with the approval of Lee County Board of Commissioners (BoCC) and the Fort Myers Beach Town Council plans to test an alternating lane project on Matanzas Bridge and portions of Estero Boulevard is welcome news indeed.

Whether it is successful in alleviating some of Estero’s traffic woes will be determined after a fair test, hopefully next season. The fact that three major governmental bodies all agreed to something in what appears to be record time is noteworthy on its own.

We have Mayor Mandel and Town Manager Terry Stewart to thank for that. They were the ones who put the pieces together, solicited advice and support from all levels of government and hustled to get everyone onboard. The support of the other council members who approved the project, as well as the county commissioners was also critical, but this kind of multi-jurisdictional cooperation usually only works when a core group grabs the ball and runs with it. And they did, working with Senator Benacquisto, the Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), the Florida DOT Engineering, Operations, and Government Affairs offices in addition to Lee County commissioners and our Town Council.

Will the alternating lane trial make a difference? We hope so.

We all know that our traffic problems are complex. There are no simple solutions. In spite of the regular, helpful suggestions that "all” we have to do is build an overpass for pedestrians or widen the street or eliminate left turns, we know that any one solution is unlikely to transform Estero into a free-flowing thoroughfare on any given afternoon in March. That, I suspect, would indeed take magic. But what might be attainable is improvement in traffic flow both onto the beach in the mornings and off the beach in the afternoons and evenings.

For years we’ve endured studies and governmental gridlock that rival any traffic gridlock seen on the road itself. For those unfamiliar with the issue, Estero Boulevard south of the Matanzas Bridge is owned by Lee County.Matanzas Bridge is owned by the State of Florida.
05/23/2013 at 4:10pm Delete

Remember

On Monday, we celebrate Memorial Day, a day set aside to honor those who died while serving our country in the Armed Forces, not to be confused with Veterans Day when we honor the service of all U.S. military veterans, living and dead.

In the 237 years of these United States, well over a million military men and women have died while serving our country. That is an astounding number. Each of those casualties left family and friends behind. Those circles of loss spread to touch most every citizen in our country.

The Greatest Generation grew up with World War II as a life-changing conflict. Korea sent many World War II vets back into the field of battle. Vietnam changed the Boomer Generation. The Gulf Wars, Iraq and Afghanistan have introduced new generations to the realities of war and sacrifice.

I suspect that when we think of Memorial Day and fallen heroes, we often think of the beaches of Normandy or Iwo Jima or maybe Khe Sanh or Hamburger Hill and the men who died there.

Yet there is a new generation of fallen heroes that should be included in our remembrance this Memorial Day. The War in Iraq and Afghanistan has produced a new generation of war widows and grieving families. It may be time to expand our national consciousness to include not only the wars of long ago, but the wars of the 21st century, including the Afghanistan war that is still going on today.

While we are honoring fallen heroes, Memorial Day is a good time to ponder the loss of thousands and thousands of lives and wonder what our world might have been like had those who died not had their lives cut short. When we honor their sacrifice for our country, it’s ok to wish they hadn’t been asked to make that sacrifice.

But for now, let us remember the following members of the U.S. Military who died serving their country just within the last month. It is my great honor to devote this space to recognizing them. Please read their names, ages and hometowns so that they might not be nameless or faceless to us, the very people they died serving.
05/16/2013 at 3:45pm Delete

Money, Money, Money

We’ve been hearing a lot of talk about money, government money, which is to say your and my money, lately.

The Commissioners of Lee County voted to pledge $4.6 million in county funds to a mystery corporation, now known as Hertz.

The state of Florida offered $12 million, plus $68 million in tax credits.

Add that all up and we’re talking about some real money. Whether it’s tax credits or money paid outright, that's over $84 million that otherwise would have been available for state or county spending needs.

This is the state that refused to expand Medicare, walking away from $500 million in federal dollars (again, yours and mine) to expand Medicaid funding for the poor, choosing to dump the costs of uninsured Floridians on hospitals who then pass it along to all of us. But what do our legislators know about the reality of health care insurance. Members of the Florida House pay less than $9 per month for single coverage; $30/month for family. Senators pay $50/month. If you write the check for your family’s health care insurance, you know how laughable that is. Wouldn’t we all love to have family coverage for $30/month? Where do we sign up?

While our legislators were wrestling with health insurance and end of session challenges, Governor Scott was readying the multi-million dollar package to attract Hertz to Florida and Lee County.

Will it be good to have a major corporate headquarters in Lee County? Sure. It shows that our area has the amenities that executives look for in both their business and personal lives. This is a great place to live and work. So, why does it require an $84 million carrot to bring them here? Short answer – because if we didn’t offer it, someplace else would.

Does our county have the funds to pay Hertz to move here? That’s up for debate. In recent years, our county has been spending more than it takes in, using reserves that are just about depleted.
05/09/2013 at 4:34pm Delete

The Coconut Telegraph*

Did you hear about the parking garage they're going to build at Seafarer's?

No? Well, then you might want to check your connection to the grapevine or coconut telegraph here on the island. True or not, this "news” spread like wildfire this week.

What’s the truth?

On Monday afternoon, Vice Mayor Joe Kosinski presented one idea on how traffic and parking congestion might be relieved. He presented a description and drawings of two multi-level parking ramps to be located northwest of the bridge along Old San Carlos Boulevard. He said he'd spoken to some of the businesses in the area and emphasized that this was only one possible idea.

Was that enough to stifle the telegraph? Of course not! By Tuesday morning, the wires were humming with how the Town was going to tear down everything on Old San Carlos Blvd. or there was going to be a big parking garage on the Seafarer's site or somesuch.

Turns out the coconut telegraph was wrong, as it usually is. If you’re interested, it's very easy to find the truth in this. The topic was part of the Town Council Workshop on Monday. Every Town Council meeting and workshop, for that matter, every Town committee, has a published agenda available. The agenda posted on the Town's website provides a link to the background information that Council members are provided prior to the meeting. It's available to anyone, both before and after a meeting. For instance, if you want to know what information was provided to the Local Planning Agency/Historic Preservation Board in the matter of the request for Historic status for the Big "M" sign at Moss Marine--it's on the website as part of their February and March meeting agendas. For that matter, just about any topic discussed has background information attached to the agenda. Check it out for yourself.

So you'll find the whole presentation of the proposed parking structure, with drawings and sketches, linked to the Monday Workshop agenda under "Parking Alternatives."