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Missy Layfield - Editor
03/27/2014 at 3:56pm Delete

Almost Made It

It’s the end of March and while we were going to use this space to tout the accomplishment of getting to this point without a single fatal pedestrian accident on Estero Boulevard, we can’t. While it is true that there have been no fatal pedestrian accidents on Estero, there was one Wednesday night on San Carlos Boulevard, just over the bridge. At press time, all we know is that a woman was hit by a vehicle and died while crossing the road outside of a crosswalk at about 10pm. Here at the Sand Paper, we often talk about how we’re all one Island community. We’re all saddened by the loss of another life on our roads. Celebrating our Estero Boulevard success, limited as it may be, would be wrong at this point. But we will talk about safety.

Anytime you mix pedestrians with 2+ tons of steel moving at 25-45 mph, the pedestrian is going to lose.

After two tragic accidents on Estero Blvd, the Town created a permanent Advisory Committee in 2012, indicating its commitment to long-term solutions. Staffed by concerned citizens, local public safety representatives and Lee County transportation officials, the group developed a range of suggestions that were approved by Town Council and passed along to Lee County, the official owner of Estero Boulevard.

Some of those suggestions have become reality: Safety banners, better lighting, refuge islands, rapid flash crosswalk lighting among them.

Other suggestions are still being debated. A lower speed limit? More rapid flash crosswalk lights? More lighting? We’ve learned that just because our Town suggests something, does not mean we’ll get it. The redesign of Estero Blvd will begin next year and there has been a strong safety component throughout the design process. But until that is done, we have to deal with what we have: an imperfect system that puts vehicles, pedestrians and bicycles in too small of a space, often too dark and often with traffic moving too fast. Add in a bit of "I’m on vacation-nothing can go wrong” and we have the perfect storm.
03/20/2014 at 4:33pm Delete

Let the Sunshine In

Want to know what was said at a Town Council meeting you missed?

Interested in what County Commissioners discussed at their last planning meeting?

Maybe you’d like to know how many police reports have been filed at your address this year.

It’s all public record and you may request those records at any time and that is Government in the Sunshine—Florida style.

This week, we celebrate Sunshine Week 2014 – the one week where we focus on the right of the people to keep an eye on how their government works—how it spends their money, manages public projects and protects their community.

In Florida our open meetings and open record laws are generally referred to as the Florida Sunshine laws.

Any record made by or received by any public agency is available to citizens, unless it has been specifically exempted by the Legislature. This includes not just written records but photos, email, film and anything stored in computers. If it has to do with government, citizens can see, hear or watch it.

Florida has been known around the nation as a leader in the area of open government. We are fortunate to live in a state that has recognized the public's right to know what its government is doing and obtain records from its government.

These rights are not written in stone, however, for there are always forces that would like the public not to know what one branch or another of government is doing. Each year there are bills proposed to add a new class of information to the list of exemptions. Every year.

In a nice change of pace, this year there is a bill moving through the Senate that would strengthen Florida’s public records law. SB 1648 limits fees for record searches.
03/13/2014 at 3:49pm Delete

Welcome

On Tuesday, voters ushered three new Town Council members into office. They will take their seats on Tuesday evening after they are sworn into office.

We’d like to be among the first to welcome them to the dais of Town government. Recognizing that it’s a return to the dais for Anita Cereceda, we expect it feels pretty much like a new job, as it is for Rexann Hosafros and Summer Stockton. And we wish them all a swift orientation to the myriad details and documents that power our Town.

We know that it’s challenging. We spend hours ourselves poring over ordinances, the Land Development code and the Comprehensive Plan, not to mention variances, special exceptions and zoning requests. There is nothing simple about municipal governance, and it functions best if everyone does their homework, which we suspect won’t be an issue for our new council members.

We hope you find Town staff as knowledgeable and helpful as we have when we’ve approached any of them with a question.

We hope that you are treated with respect and dignity by the many Town residents who bring their concerns to the Council.

We hope that residents understand that after legal action has been filed, Town Council and Town staff are limited in what they can speak of regarding the issues involved in the lawsuit.

We hope that Town residents listen to Council’s answers to their questions and concerns and understand that there are no instant solutions to most issues of concern for residents. We know that every council member wants what is best for our community.

Most of all, we hope that the next three years are marked by continued cooperation and consensus-building on Town Council as we all move forward. In the water, storm water and Estero Blvd projects, we’ve had a good taste of what a council working together can accomplish.
03/06/2014 at 5:37pm Delete

Your Turn

After a two-month campaign, a month’s worth of yard signs and a few candidate forums, it’s your turn, voters, to select the right people for three seats on Town Council.

The Island Sand Paper has tried to do its part by providing voters with information about the candidates, their opinions in their own words and answers to questions on issues that the next council will face.

We’ve been asked which candidates we endorse. The answer is none. It is our belief that the decision on who represents you should be yours.

We know it’s a long-held tradition in the newspaper world to endorse candidates. We’ve heard the rationale that those in the newspaper business probably know more about the issues and candidates than most voters have time to learn. We’ve heard it’s a newspaper’s responsibility to endorse candidates. We also know that the history of endorsements by newspapers is tainted with corruption and pay-to-play backroom deals in some communities. We don’t want any hint of favoritism to color our election coverage or our editorial policy.

There are many well-respected newspapers that are proponents of endorsements. And we do not assume nor wish to imply that there is anything wrong or shady about their policy or procedures for endorsements. We simply have come to a different conclusion on our role as a community newspaper in local elections.

We do however want to encourage a community dialogue and have welcomed the many Letters to the Editor Islanders have written in support of their choices to fill those three seats. The last two weeks have seen record numbers of letters regarding the election.

But now, it’s your turn. Five candidates for three seats means two qualified candidates are going to walk away on the losing end of Tuesday’s election.