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Missy Layfield - Editor
6 days ago, 07/24/2014 at 3:14pm Delete

News and Opinion

Recent events in our community have reminded us at the Sand Paper that we enjoy amazing rights and freedoms, unequaled almost anywhere in the world. With those rights and freedoms, come some serious responsibilities, some of which have been challenged this week by readers taking exception to our news coverage and editorial regarding the elevated pool setback controversy.

Our role as a community newspaper is to serve the community and advocate for what we feel is best for our entire community, not agree with everyone. We respect the fact that intelligent people can look at the facts of a situation and come to different conclusions. For some, the lack of agreement with their viewpoint is enough to be branded as the opposition, or, at the very least, as not well informed.

Last week’s coverage of the elevated pool setback issue brought on Letters to the Editor and some statements or implications that we should be embarrassed, are ignorant of the facts or just wrong.

We don’t expect everyone to agree with our opinions. Readers are always invited to respond with a Letter to the Editor. Each week, we print our Submissions Policy that provides letter guidelines.

This all comes with the territory of running a newspaper, and we’re not crying in our beer, but we felt as though some clarifications might be helpful this week just so our readers know exactly where we stand.

1. Our news articles are based on facts. We report the facts and quotes and may report the opinions of others, but the management of the Sand Paper does not express our opinions on local or regional news via our story selection or coverage. That is one of the serious responsibilities mentioned above and one that we regard as inviolable.

2. We do express our opinions in the Editorial. The weekly editorial is the only platform for our opinions in the Sand Paper.

3. We are a small community newspaper with only so many hours in the day to get the news out. We concede almost every story could be longer and include more info, but advertising revenues dictate the size of our free newspaper, which dictates the number and length of the stories we can run. A sad and very rude reality we face each week is that we must make a profit or we fail, and will no longer be able to serve our community.
2 weeks ago, 07/17/2014 at 3:25pm Delete

All About The Money

Our Town has been awash in the elevated pool controversy for well over a year now. There have been letters and opinion pieces in this newspaper, phone calls, emails and letters to Town officials. Town Council meetings have given hours of public comment time to residents to voice their opinions and concerns. The Local Planning Agency has weighed in and produced an elevated pool policy. False rumors of bribery led to our Town spending taxpayer money to investigate the rumored accusation. The Town lost several professional staff members, including a Town Manager, Director of Community Development and a Zoning Coordinator during this year of controversy.

All over a pool built too close to a seawall with a valid permit approved by staff after consultation with the Town’s attorney determined that there was nothing in the Land Development Code that prohibited it. Our LDC was too murky to prohibit it outright. Council actions since have set a precedent on how they interpret the LDC. And they’ve taken initial steps to begin to clear up the murkiness that haunts our LDC. But what is clear now, was not when permits were issued. I know not everyone agrees on that issue and that’s fine.

What’s not so fine is how a small group of residents have essentially taken up residence in Town Hall, repetitively demanding answers and private meetings, taking untold hours of staff time and making threats of legal action if they don’t get their way. That way being the tearing down of the elevated pool.

But when that was agreed upon in a settlement agreement with the developer, that wasn’t enough. The barrage of demands continued. It seemed as though nothing would satisfy the neighbors, not even the tearing down of the pool.

And then came the first whiff of what at least one resident wanted. Cash. Instead of paying the plaintiffs the $250,000, he would like the Town to pay him and a few neighbors. Wow.

So their loss of view, their concern about LDC variances and setbacks, the angst of the battle to preserve their quality of life -- all of it could be washed away with a little cash.

And if the Town and developer won’t agree to hand over the cash, then the neighbors will sue.
3 weeks ago, 07/10/2014 at 3:12pm Delete

Let’s Vote!

In just over 6 weeks, Beach voters will be asked to make some important decisions on local elections. I know, I know, we’ve just selected a new U.S. Congressman in a special election.

While many have already tuned out the August 26th Primary Election because they are not registered Republicans, the fact is that all voters will be asked to vote to fill some critical seats on local boards. There are at least two seats whose ballot has been opened in a Universal Primary, meaning because all qualified candidates are of one party, we ALL get to vote. In August.

The only Island board seats up for election are two Fire Board seats, that will be on the November 4th ballot. The Fort Myers Beach Mosquito Control Board seat and all four Beach Library seats, along with one Fire Board seat were automatic wins for the only qualified candidate for each position.

Too often this means that island voters will check out of the upcoming elections. We can all be a little too Island-centric when it comes to elections. We care a lot about who our Town Council reps are, and our Library and Fire board reps. But when it comes to the Lee County School Board---not so much.

And that is a shame because we are all impacted by the decisions made Over the Bridge (OTB) by Lee Count boards, whether it’s the Board of Commissioners, the School Board or the Lee Memorial Health System Board.

We have a Lee County School here on the Island, and our Beach kids attend Lee County Middle and High Schools. The people who guide the school district hold a lot of power over the education that our children receive. Don’t have kids in school? You’re an investor in Lee County Schools whether you have a child in school or not. You ought to care how that investment is being cared for and what our county will look like in 20-30 years. That will be decided by the quality of the education that Lee County students receive today and tomorrow. Help them and yourself by caring who sits on the School Board.

Islanders are well aware of the power that the Lee County Board of County Commissioners has on myriad subjects that Islanders care deeply about. Whether it’s Conservation 2020, impact fees, beach renourishment, channel dredging or road improvements, we are all aware of how County Commissioner decisions impact all of us.
4 weeks ago, 07/03/2014 at 10:41pm Delete

Happy 4th of July!

Welcome to the Beach on the 4th of July – a truly happy place to celebrate this all-American holiday!!

Thousands will enjoy our parade, the fun in Time Square and the hot dog-eating contest. Even more will find a good spot to settle in and appreciate our spectacular fireworks show after the sun sets.

About as American as you can get without munching on a hotdog in your Chevy while driving to a baseball game.

Independence Day – a good day to talk about our freedom.

As Americans we are frequently criticized for not appreciating our freedom – not appreciating the men and women who went before us in this grand American experiment and made it possible for us to become forgetful of our past.

Having known my fair share of American veterans from several eras, I’ve found that they are the staunchest defenders of our American way of life – complete with fireworks, BBQ’s, parades and yes, apple pie. They don’t ask for an end to the fun and frivolity on days like the 4th of July. If anything they encourage it, even relish it – for they know better than many that it is only those whose liberty and independence are secure that feel safe enough to play and celebrate.

It is only those who have known oppression that can appreciate the broad freedoms we enjoy. While we as a people are in a constant debate as to what freedoms are threatened and there are those who can delineate the ways in which not all Americans are as free as they ought to be, the fact remains that Americans can step outside our doors this weekend without fear of being arrested by their own government or shot by those opposed to that government. Not so in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria or many other countries.

Yes, we do take our freedom for granted.

We complain about Supreme Court rulings while citizens of countless countries have no right to contest any law and are killed for any resistance to authority.

Americans complain about Congress and the President, all lawfully elected by the citizens of this country – something lacking in many places in our world today.

We complain about food labeling and agriculture rules, while millions around the world lack clean water to drink or enough food to eat.