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Missy Layfield - Editor
01/30/2014 at 4:06pm Delete

ISLAND KUDOS

We at the Sand Paper are committed to sharing the good news about our community. So, every couple months we use this space to focus on all the good things happening in our community and the many great people who make our island a better place to live, work and play. Kudos go out to…

The Caloosahatchee Marching and Chowder Society Sailing Club for their support of youth sailing and marine education. Their donation to the Ostego Bay Foundation helps the foundation reach more area youth.

Town Hall staff that has kept the Town running smoothly during the transition to a new Town Manager.

Estero Island Historic Society for developing a walking self-guided historical tour of the island utilizing smartphones and QR codes. Utilizing technology to share our historical treasures is a great idea!

All the volunteers who make a variety of nature walks possible. From Lovers Key to Bunche Beach, those walks everyone loves so much are possible due to volunteers willing to share their love of nature with all of us.

Don Stilwell for taking on the challenge of the Town Manager role in the middle of the elevated pool controversy.

Volunteer members of Town advisory committees who persist in their efforts to improve our community, often without acclaim, and sometimes with criticism. Thank you!

The Lynx Educational Foundation, captain and crew for their steadfast devotion to educating the public on American history, especially the era of the War of 1812.

All five candidates who have qualified to run for three seats on the Fort Myers Beach Town Council. It takes courage and commitment to run for public office and we’re fortunate to have citizens willing to step forward and run.

Town Council for agreeing to move the dumpsters from the Bay Oaks parking lot so baseball and softball games are not played under the odor of trash.
01/23/2014 Delete

That Red Stuff

Our cool weather has kept many folks off the beach this week, so some may be surprised when they do head to the beach at all "that red stuff.” Looks like seaweed – but isn’t.That red stuff, my friends is a lasting reminder of last summer’s water dump from Lake Okeechobee.

For our visitors who may not be aware, last summer’s rainy season here in Florida was more prolific than normal and resulted in Lake O rising to levels that resulted in the Army Corps of Engineers, who manage the Lake, increasing the water flow out of the lake, eventually throwing all the gates wide open to drain the Lake as fast as they could. This sent about 814 million gallons of lake water into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers, nearly an 80% increase over normal rainy season releases. The Caloosahatchee gets the lion’s share of these releases along with the pollutants the water carries, including nitrogen and phosphorous.

The red stuff is red drift algae-algae that just loves nitrogen and phosphorous. It’s not red tide. It’s not harmful. Because it can be stinky, the Town has cleared the beach of the algae at least once and will again if needed.

Don’t let the algae or the cool temperatures keep you from enjoying our beach, though. Whether it’s 55 or 75 degrees, a walk along the beach is why you’re here, isn’t it? Our country is filled with beautiful beaches from Maine to Oregon and people flock to them summer and winter. Don’t let a little chill keep you from a soul-soothing beach walk right here on our island.

Chilly Beach Activities

We have an island full of visitors looking for things to do since our cooler weather has hung on for a while. While it’s normally hard to drag yourself away from the beach, this is a golden opportunity to take advantage of some of our indoor Island activities. So after your daily beach walk, head over to the Mound House on Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday from 10am-2pm for a tour of this historic site.
01/16/2014 at 4:04pm Delete

TURNING POINT

Wednesday was a turning point for our Town. We won’t know which direction we turned for a few years, but I’m sure that we’ll look back on Wednesday as a turning point.

Town Manager Terry Stewart was removed as Town Manager, at his request. There are some who celebrate his departure as a success. There are others who feel as if the dark side won and we’ll all pay the price.

Our town cannot afford to repeat the revolving door managers of 2005-2010. Don’t recall much of what happened then? That may be because so much of the Town’s energy and focus was spent on first ousting 10-year Town Manager Marsha Segal-George, then searching and hiring a series of seven different managers over the next five years.

We’ve had a stable Town Hall for almost four years. And took it for granted. North Estero renovation completed. Potable water project begun. Stormwater project begun. Estero Blvd renovation finally on the county list of projects. Mound House in the final stages of renovation. None of these things happened due to any one person, but the stability of Town staff certainly helped. That stability came from having a professional Town Manager at the helm.

Whether you are happy or sad to see Stewart depart, you’ll see the effect of his absence in the coming months. Even if Town Council moves quickly to select a new Town Manager, it takes months for someone new to acclimate to the job and begin to be effective. That delay will hurt us in ways we can’t even begin to enumerate today.

A turning point, but which way?

TIME MACHINE

Our Town of Fort Myers Beach is a proud community. We love our 7-mile stretch of barrier island with all its natural beauty and quirky character.

But there is a dark undercurrent here that needs to be acknowledged.
01/09/2014 at 5:52pm Delete

Freedom of Speech

There has been an amazing amount of confusion lately about the Freedom of Speech that is granted by the Bill of Rights, some of it coming from people who should know better. People like a state governor and former candidates for the highest office in the country.

I’m talking of course about the Duck Dynasty flap. I so hoped to never type those words – Duck Dynasty – but the persistent claims that 67 year old Phil Robertson’s free speech rights were violated when he was suspended by his employer, A & E, pushed me to examine this a bit further. Mostly because I’ve found, sitting in the editor’s chair, that there are many people who truly do not understand what constitutionally protected free speech actually means. Here’s what the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights actually says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The key word in that paragraph is Congress, which is interpreted to mean the government. The government cannot tell you what you can and cannot say. Whether they like what you say or not, they can’t block your right to say it. Here is where I have to insert the obligatory explanation that there are limits on this freedom, as there are on most of our rights, in that you can’t yell "Fire!” in a crowded theater. There are also limits related to child pornography, obscenity, threats and inciting illegal activity.

While the First Amendment protects our speech from government regulation, it doesn’t protect it from criticism or the societal repercussions of that speech. Or the reactions of our friends, neighbors or employers. Just ask the Dixie Chicks or Dick Metcalf how that works. The Dixie Chicks were shunned by radio stations and sponsors after criticizing President George W. Bush.