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Missy Layfield - Editor
4 weeks ago, 08/28/2014 Delete

Peak Season

Now that we’re past the Primary Election, we can look forward to peak season for campaigning. And hope that a few more voters take an interest in the November election than voted in last Tuesday’s Primary.

While the Primary gave registered Republicans and Democrats a chance to pick their nominees for Governor and a handful of other races, most of the races were on everyone’s ballot, including those who are not affiliated with any party. Apparently that was not enough to stir much interest in voters. Which is too bad because those who did vote, elected a state senator a county commissioner and two school board members-all of them will be in position to affect voters’ tax bills for years to come. That’s enough for me to want to have some say in who’s elected.

The November election gives voters another chance to weigh in on a number of important races, U.S. Congressional District 19, Governor, State Attorney General, State Representatives, a whole slew of judges, plus county races for School Board, Lee Memorial Health System, County Commission and a local race for two seats on the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District Board.

If you are not yet registered to vote, or you’ve moved and need to change your registration, note the deadline of October 6th.

While you’re looking at your voter registration card, check the party affiliation. Florida has about 4.6 million registered Democrats, 4.1 million registered Republicans and 2.7 million No Party Affiliation voters. Beyond that there are 13 other parties in Florida ranging from the Justice Party with a mere 68 members to the Libertarian Party with over 22,000 members to the Independent Party with over 265,000 members, though most (nine) of them have under 2,000 members.

When you registered, and were asked "What party?” did you say, "I’m independent?” If so, you might find that you are a registered member of the official Independent Party or the similar sounding Independence Party, when what you meant was you are "No Party Affiliation.” The Independent or Independence Party may reflect your political leanings and be exactly where you want to be. But the numbers seem unusually high for a third party-more than 10 times higher than the next party that does not have a form of "Independent” in its name.

Independent is the word most people use to describe themselves politically if they are not a registered Republican or Democrat. With the usual pandemonium that are our county offices where many of us register to vote while we’re getting a driver’s license...
08/21/2014 at 5:31pm Delete

Beach Business

Business here on Fort Myers Beach is great! Sure, it’s off-season and there are a few places closed for renovation, cleaning or vacation time, but overall business is great! We’re having the best off-season in years. Investment in the commercial and residential areas of the beach is booming!

You might not know that if you were to read a local daily with its doom and gloom stories on Fort Myers Beach business. This week, we read how four restaurants had recently closed on the beach!! Wonder how many closed in Lee County or Collier County. How many businesses open and close in downtown Fort Myers each year?

The business climate here on the beach is a unique and highly seasonal one. In order to succeed, any business must take that into account and be financially ready to weather a few slow seasons plus a few years of establishing themselves. Not all businesses are financially prepared to do that.

We have thousands of tourists and snowbirds that flock to our island during the peak season February-April, and thousands more who come in shoulder seasons October-January and May-June.

Summer is our slow season. We each have different ways of measuring when the slowest part of the year has arrived. For some it’s traffic, for others it’s seats at your favorite pub and for yet others it’s cars in hotel parking lots. But however you measure, if you are in business on Fort Myers Beach, you know the rhythms of the season and know that those rhythms affect your cash register. And plan for it. You learn how to manage expenses during the slow season, yet still provide the service that will keep customers coming back.

The sad fact is that some businesses don’t plan for it and are caught by surprise when the crowds thin out. Or their business plan did not take into account the challenges of doing business in a highly seasonal location. Or their plan included the unrealistic assumption that all they had to do was open their doors and they’d be full every night. And it’s not just Fort Myers Beach businesses-many businesses in Lee and Collier counties suffer and perish if they are not ready for the seasonal lows that come around every year, even in good off-season years.

This year many of us have been impressed with how busy the Island has stayed through June, July and into August.
08/14/2014 at 3:49pm Delete

What is News?

What is news? What should be printed in the paper?

The answer to those two questions is different for each one of us. What one person sees as something the community should know is another’s invasion of privacy and no one else’s business.

When a person is wronged, they want the culprit, as they see it, named in bold letters in the newspaper. If accused themselves, they don’t think it should be in the paper at all.

Let’s take arrests. The Lee County Sheriff’s Office provides a list of persons arrested, the charge, their home address and the location of their arrest. Some community newspapers print that list every week. We do not. Primarily because fairness demands that if we’re going to report that someone was arrested, we should report the final disposition of the case, including if they were found innocent, if that is the case. To provide that level of fair coverage of arrests and follow-up would require more time and space and staff than our newspaper can provide.

So, while we understand that if a drunken driver hits you, you want their name in the paper, we’re not going to do that, because we can’t follow that case to its conclusion.

Also, from our interaction with the community, we hear that most of our readers aren’t interested in who got arrested for what last week.

We could list the calls we get on deadbeat tenants or bad landlords, or the neighbors who won’t stop playing their music too loud. We realize that this may be a huge issue for the affected parties; it isn’t for the vast majority of our readers.

There’s also a little issue of liability. Ours. If a situation is likely to involve a legal battle, we’re going to let the lawyers battle it out. Yours. Our job is not to allow one or the other party in a private legal matter to use the newspaper to publicly call out or shame someone. Not our job. If it’s a legal issue, hire a lawyer and go after them.

Readers are interested in knowing about crime activity on the beach, especially when it’s in their neighborhood. We’ve encouraged Islanders to utilize the crime mapping program on the LCSO website or via crimereports.com, where you can sign up for emailed reports on what crimes have been committed in any neighborhood you specify.
08/07/2014 at 4:15pm Delete

Charley

On Wednesday, we mark 10 years since Hurricane Charley roared through Southwest Florida, leaving devastation, heartache and confusion. Over the past two issues, we’ve reflected on that experience, offering the perspective of those who lived through the storm and the aftermath here on our Island.

The storm was truly a seminal event in our island’s history, influencing many events that would follow – elections, jobs, decisions on whether to continue to live here and to some extent, how we live here in houses raised a dozen feet or more off our white sand. Island life surely did shift after Charley.

And our Islanders shifted right along with it, showing their resilience and determination to move forward and recover from Charley.

Our Sand Paper stories have captured the compassion and sharing of resources that were so evident right after the storm - how local businesses and individuals pulled together to help each other, to feed each other, to offer shelter to each other.

It’s at moments of crisis that the very best of human nature is on display and our human decency and kindness shine the brightest and our Island’s response to Charley was exceptional.

Ten years later is a good time to step back and take stock of how far we’ve come, both individually and as a community. Our Island learned from Charley. We have an active Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) that is the envy of many coastal communities. Our first responders, on and off the island, have a highly coordinated plan for pre-storm, storm and post-storm scenarios. Our town has a detailed Emergency Operations Plan. Most of all, we have a population of citizens who have seen firsthand the power of Charley’s glancing blow and are not interested in seeing firsthand what a direct hit by a slow moving storm with a serious storm surge would do. We’re safer just by recognizing the power of a hurricane.

Ten years later, we should be proud of how our Island responded to Charley.

Try Try Again

The Florida Legislature gathered in Tallahassee yesterday to begin a special session necessitated by the unconstitutional congressional district map they drew up and approved after the Fair District amendments. In July a judge ruled the maps violated the Florida Constitution, specifically the Fair District amendments passed in 2010.