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Missy Layfield - Editor
09/26/2013 at 3:44pm Delete

Shame

On Monday, we all learned that County Commissioner Tammy Hall entered a plea deal with federal prosecutors on a wire fraud charge related to embezzling campaign funds for her personal use. She is accused of using over $33,000 in campaign contributions to pay her credit card bills and mortgage.

That is bad enough and has left many scratching their heads as to why a County Commissioner would violate such a basic rule of campaign finance, betraying the trust placed in her by residents of Lee County. This was no accidental accounting error; this was willful use of funds she knew were donated to her campaign for campaign purposes.

What really bothers me is the sudden springing of this news as a done deal this week. Seems she signed a plea deal last Monday, September 16th to plead guilty to one count of wire fraud. This has clearly been in the works for months.

If the feds knew about this well over a year ago – the plea deal refers to a February 2012 interview – why was she allowed to continue serving as a county commissioner? I don’t know when federal prosecutors had the proof that compelled Hall to accept a plea deal. But as soon as they had proof, charges should have been filed so that we, the residents of Lee County would know about them.

Why was she still making decisions affecting residents when she and prosecutors knew that she had violated the law? Worse, she was making critical county decisions AFTER she signed the plea deal.

She signed the plea deal on Monday, September 16. The next morning, she voted on the 2013-2014 county budget that passed 4-1.

If someone is under investigation, that’s one thing, but if prosecutors have prepared charges and are negotiating a plea deal, well, that is long past the time for public knowledge and for her resignation.

While I’d like to consider her years of public service and the good that she has done for Lee County, all I can think about is that she knew she’d cheated, knew she’d been caught, knew she would have to resign, yet she stayed in her seat on the County Commission anyway. That is just as much of a betrayal of the public trust as taking the money in my opinion. And the federal prosecutors made it all possible by keeping the charges under the radar. Shame on all of them!
09/19/2013 at 3:54pm Delete

Kids

Who doesn’t love children? We smile at their playground laughter.We chuckle at their knock-knock jokes. Our refrigerators are covered with their artwork. If there is danger, kids are the first ones we move to safety.We put ourselves in jeopardy to rescue a child we don’t even know and we do it without thinking about it. Kids matter. Our society values children instinctively because they are our future. This near universal high priority placed on children has a few gaps however.

This week we have a great story about A Seahorse Dream, a fundraiser for Golisano Children’s Hospital and it’s a timely story because September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and Golisano is our local kids cancer treatment center. You probably haven’t heard of it but yes, there is a Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. The ribbon color is gold, but you may not know that because there is no large national marketing campaign. You won’t be finding gold colored M & M’s or gold sneakers on the shelf. In the battle to raise awareness, it’s pretty much the kids and their families.

Our son is one of those kids and we are one of those families. Our son is a survivor, which makes us one of the lucky ones. During the 6 years of his treatment, we vowed to do everything we possibly could to make sure that other families did not have to face the prospect of losing their child to cancer. Part of that effort includes this annual column where we use this space to talk about childhood cancer.

We know it makes people uncomfortable. We lost friends who couldn’t handle facing the fact that it could have been their child. A good number of readers have already turned the page, not wanting to think about kids suffering and dying. But nothing is as important as finding a cure for the group of cancers known as childhood cancer. Kids cancer is not adult cancer. Many adult cancers have known preventable causes, whether its diet or smoking or environmental hazards. Nobody knows what causes a baby to get cancer or a 4 year old. And there isn’t enough money devoted to kids cancers to find out.

This year 13,500 American kids under the age of 20 will be diagnosed with cancer. Thirty-six kids yesterday, thirty-six today, thirty-six tomorrow. You may have heard about how childhood cancer is one of the success stories in cancer treatment. And if you pick and choose your statistics carefully, that’s true. Children diagnosed with some types of leukemia can expect survival rates over 90%. Would you want your child to be the 10%?
09/12/2013 at 4:26pm Delete

New Reality

On September 10th, terrorism was something that occurred somewhere else. Turkey or Israel or Europe. Not here. On September 11th, the worldview of millions of Americans shifted suddenly and without warning, Americans were forced to face the fact that terrorism had come to America. We weren’t immune or safe or insulated. We never really were any of those, but we’d all bought into the myth that we were somehow wrapped up in a cocoon of safety somehow so long as we were on American soil.

The United States, often seen by American citizens as a safe haven from world events, was attacked. Sure there had been previous terrorist attacks, including one at the World Trade Center in 1993, plus one by homegrown terrorists in Oklahoma City in 1995, but for the most part, terrorism was something that occurred on foreign soil-not in our offices, our planes, our child care centers or our restaurants.We were safe.

We thought of threats to our national security as looking like foreign planes with bombs or intercontinental missiles-not as radical Muslim extremists with box cutters.

Then came 9-11. Few will forget how it felt to watch the planes fly into the towers or the towers collapsing or the sight of people jumping out of the towers.

As we watched the Twin Towers burn and then collapse, many of us were in shock. How could this happen? Why? Who was responsible? The questions were many; the answers few in those first hours, days and weeks. Mostly, Americans were baffled and angry-emphasis on angry.

However, if the attackers thought that their suicide mission would bring America to its knees, they greatly underestimated the resolve of the average American. Our country did not collapse; we did not fold. The 9-11 attacks brought a new resolve among Americans-a new sense of unity-a commitment to stand together. The United We Stand phrase became our rallying cry. Blood donations surged. Americans found a new level of respect for public service occupations, after the heroism of the NYC 9-11 first responders was widely reported.Americans did not cower in fear; we honored the victims on 9-11 and stood tall as we found our way in a post 9-11 world.

Of course not all reactions to 9-11 were honorable. There were hate crimes as mosques and other Islamic institutions were vandalized or burned.
09/05/2013 at 2:44pm Delete

Be Ready

It’s been a quiet summer season on the hurricane front. Last year by this time, we’d had two tropical storms blow past us, reminding us that it indeed is hurricane season.

Without those reminders, it’s easy to become complacent. While we residents are often unprepared until a 5-day cone is headed our way, we can thank our public safety officials for their year-round preparation for hurricane season. From Lee County to Town officials to the Fire Department and CERT, preparation is taken very seriously.

We’ve been lucky. Even when Charley, a Cat 4 storm roared ashore at Cayo Costa in 2004, the wind and surge were less than they might have been. Charley’s strongest winds were reserved for a narrow band near the eye, away from our beach. Yet the winds, rain and surge we did get caused remarkable destruction here.

Sometime in the next few days, stand outside and imagine what winds of over 150 mph with a storm surge of 20+ feet would do to your home and neighborhood. That is a direct hit by a slow moving Cat 5 storm.

As we approach the peak of the season, take some time and prepare yourself, your house and your family.We need to be prepared for the worst that can happen.

Remember that even if you aren't concerned about yourself, try to think of the emergency personnel, our firefighters and deputies, who will be called upon to help you and put their own lives in jeopardy to do so, if you aren't prepared.

Be prepared. Have a plan. Be ready.

Shop Local

September is traditionally the slowest month on the beach. You can see it in the clear streets, the open tables and the businesses that utilize this month to do some sprucing up to be ready for the crowds that will return this fall.

With visitor numbers down during the summer season, supporting our local businesses is more important than ever. Our beach businesses depend on our patronage to survive the summer months. And what better time to stop in not only your favorite spots on the beach, but a few new ones also?