Letter to County Commissioners about Short Term Rentals

Hon. William McDaniel, Jr., Chair
Hon. Andy Solis
Hon. Donna Fiala
Hon. Burt Saunders
Hon. Penny Taylor

Dear Chairman McDaniel and Commissioners:

On behalf of the  Collier Citizens Council, a coalition of civic and community leaders in Collier County, we respectfully urge you to pause and reconsider your short-term rental policy on property in unincorporated Collier County.

Specifically, we ask that you (1) rescind the blanket enforcement of rules that bans owners from renting their homes for less than six months at a time and (2) craft a middle-ground policy that prevents revolving-door misbehavior of daily rentals but infringes less on individual property rights.

But before any new action is taken, we believe a pause is in order. We urge you to take a deliberate approach going forward, with full transparency and input from the community. All stakeholders – homeowners, realtors, hoteliers – should be allowed their say.

We are at an important crossroads, with individual property rights and our important tourist industry and its tax monies at stake.

Respectfully yours,

For the Collier Citizens Council
Ian McKeag
Dave Trecker
Mike Reagen

Wanted: Ethical Behavior in Public Service

By Mike Reagen*

Seeing Christian Bale’s stunning performance in VICE, the Academy Award-Nominated film, tracking the Vatican Summit, waiting for Mueller’s Report and learning about Florida’s Sunshine Law made me recall Thomas Jefferson’s quote: “I consider ethics, as well as religion, as supplements to law in the government of man.”

American Society for Public Administration [ASPA] leaders also thought about Jefferson nearly 80 years ago when they began to promote accountability, professionalism, and the significance of public service across the United States.

ASPA  35 years ago crafted their laser-focused Code of Ethics, the practice of making moral public judgements about political action and political agents, especially the methods and judgements used to make policies, regulations and laws. Today, ASPA’s Code of Ethics gives us eight standards for government workers and criteria for candidates for appointed and elected office to follow, expecting all public servants to:

  • Advance the Public Interest by subordinating personal interests and loyalties to serve all persons with courtesy, respect, and dedication to high standards above service to oneself.
  • Uphold the Constitution and the Law by respecting, supporting and improving government constitutions, laws and policies bypromoting equality, fairness, representativeness, responsiveness and due process in protecting citizens’ rights and promoting the public good.
  • Promote democratic participation by informing, encouraging and assisting the public to engage in active, open, transparent and responsive civitas and governance.
  •  Strengthen social equity by treating all persons with fairness, justice, and equality by respecting individual differences, rights, and freedoms. and promoting initiatives to reduce unfairness, injustice, and inequality in society.
  • Communicate honestly, accurate comprehensive, and timely information and advice to elected and appointed officials, governing board members, and their staff, including those that may be unpopular…always based on a complete and impartial review of circumstances, missions and public needs.
  •  Demonstrate personal integrity by adhering to the highest standards of conduct to inspire public confidence and trust in public service by being truthful, honest, resistant to partisan pressures to not compromise and zealously guard against conflict of interest or its appearance.
  •  Strive for the highest standards of stewardship in all public service groupsby holding allaccountable for their efficient stewardship of public funds and resources through the open expression of dissent, protection of whistleblowing safeguards against reprisal and retribution.

  • Encourage excellence
     professional development by strengthening personal capabilities to keep up-to-date on emerging issues, practices, and potential problems. and acting competently and ethically.

The vast majority of our 21.9 million government employees [US Bureau of Labor Statistics], along with our 1,8 million active and 800,000 reserve military and estimated 500,000 US. Postal staff, are amazing public servants who daily assure America is Great and advance our civil society.

Most are out-of-sight and mind until we need them. For most, their work is not a job. It is a way of life dedicated to advancing our civil society. And every successful person and community knows achievement, as US Speaker Paul Ryan said, depends on people working together.

Surely, former President George H.W. Bush’s would agree. Recall his words: “Whoever says Americas best days are behind it are looking the wrong direction. The United States is the best and fairest and most decent nation on the face of the earth!”

But, the days between now and the 2020 elections will be rancorous. Serious domestic and international issues divide us. And some seeking to govern sadden us because they do so unethically by disparaging our governments and our public servants, attacking others to mask their own unethical behavior, blurring right from wrong, virtuous from unvirtuous to advance their own vested interests.

So, all of us might also recall the olde Chinese proverb “Heaven is high and the Emperor is far away! And acknowledge there is nobody here but us.

Perhaps by contrasting ASPA’s principles with what these folks say and do, we may, as Walter Cronkite urged during a previous troublesome time, reintroduce ethics into public service to restore people’s faith in government to fill a desperate need and assure democracy to continue to flourish.

-mvr: 2/25/19-

2019 Priorities- CCC interview with Collier County Commissioners


The Collier Citizens Council recently interviewed the Collier County Commissioners to determine their priorities for 2019 and, in turn, to help establish the basis for CCC projects.

Two issues stood out, topping the list of matters to be addressed.

Water Quality was a common concern, mirroring resident complaints about the toxic algae and red tide that plagued the community for much of 2018.

Growth Management was widely mentioned, recognizing the rural lands planning and infrastructure changes that will be needed to support growth in the years ahead.

Further down the list were Economic Development (more diversity sought) and Mental Health/Addiction Issues (more treatment and post-treatment housing needed).

Public Forum to Clarify the Constitutional Amendments

By Dave Trecker

The smoke has finally cleared on the constitutional amendments.

After months of agonizing, the courts have whittled down the original 13. By one! That still leaves twelve amendments to bewilder the voters.

And it gets worse. Five of the remaining 12 are “bundled,” with two or more unrelated topics combined into a single amendment. For example, Amendment 6 couples expanded rights for crime victims with an increase in judges’ retirement age and a prohibition of state courts deferring to an administrative agency. The issues are confusing and you can’t separate them. Vote for one and you get all three.

Another bundled amendment, #10, establishes a Department of Domestic Security & Counterterrorism, changes the legislative session start date and prohibits counties from abolishing certain local offices. Again, it’s all or nothing. A yes vote approves them all.

Bundling is one problem, but simply understanding the ballot language is another. According to Ballotpedia, to read and comprehend an average ballot question requires a graduate-school level of education.

But understand or not, voters are being asked to make the call on things ranging from ex-felons’ voting rights to legislative hurdles for raising taxes to a dramatically new Florida gambling policy. A great deal is at stake. Tens of millions are being spent to influence the outcome.

To cut through the tangled mess and help clarify things, a consortium of civic groups is sponsoring a public forum on October 11, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. at the North Naples Church. It’s free and no reservations are required.

What will be covered at the forum? Everything. Three amendments will be featured, with experts debating the pros and cons of each. The remaining amendments will be dissected and explained.

Here’s a preview.

Amendment 1 would provide an increase in the homestead exemption, an apparent no-brainer because most Floridians would benefit. But there is a downside. Lost tax revenues could cut services and reduce funding for government programs. A Collier County Tax Appraiser’s Office official will explain the amendment, Dr. Jim Carter, a management consultant and local Republican leader, will speak in favor of it and Amber Hughes, senior legislative advocate for the Florida League of Cities, will oppose it.

Amendment 3 would give voters, not the legislature, the right to approve casino gambling in Florida. That would be a game-changer, with moral and financial implications that could affect tourism and tax revenues. John Sowinski, chairman of “Voters in Charge,” will argue in favor of the amendment, and Isadore Havenick, vice president of Magic City Casino and the Bonita Springs dog track, will speak against it.

Amendment 13 would prohibit wagering on dog races, in effect killing greyhound racing in Florida. As expected, feelings run high both for and against. Animal rights people say greyhounds are exploited and mistreated. Opponents disagree, say the dogs are treated well and offered for adoption after their racing days are over. Kate McFall, state director of the U.S. Humane Society, will speak in favor of the amendment, and Christopher Grieb, a greyhound trainer representing the “Committee to Support Greyhounds,” will oppose it.

Discussions about the remaining amendments will be led by Patrick Neale, a prominent local attorney and state law expert.

So mark the date on your calendar, October 11, bring your questions and plan to join us. You’ll come away better informed about how to vote in November.

Trecker is president of the Collier Citizens Council. Other forum sponsors are the Collier County League of Women Voters, the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, Collier County Presidents Council, Greater Naples Better Government Committee, Naples Press Club and Greater Naples Leadership.

Congratulations Dr. Kamela Patton

Dr. Kamela Patton:

Congratulations on your receipt of the Lavan Dukes Data Leader of the Year Award for SWFL School Districts. Your continued excellence in leading our public school system is a source of pride to many of us. We salute your accomplishments.

Collier Citizens Council

Congratulations Sgt. Leslie Weidenhammer

Congratulations on being recognized for outstanding work with the specialty courts on the mental health and addiction problems plaguing our community. We are blessed to have diligent and skilled advocates like you working to make life better for all of us.

Dave Trecker

Collier Citizens Council

Martin Honored for Work with Treatment Courts

By Dave Trecker

It remains one of Collier County’s most persistent problems. Mental health and substance abuse affects thousands (the number swollen by the opioid crisis), leads to homelessness and fills our already-crowded jails.

Treatment facilities are limited, and halfway houses for those treated and released are woefully inadequate. Qualified caregivers to help with post-discharge medications are dispersed and in short supply.

There’s not much outside help. Federal funding is all but non-existent, and Florida’s per-capita spending for mental health is 50th among states. That means, by default, the issue is a local one. It has to be dealt with here or not at all.

And it is being dealt with. County Commissioner Andy Solis has assembled a task force of key stakeholders – David Lawrence Center, Sheriff’s Office, the hospitals, the courts, EMS and others – to coordinate efforts and, more importantly, to craft a strategy to deal with the problem, to go beyond just talking about it.

Central to that effort are the Collier County Treatment Courts – Drug, Mental Health and Veterans – and its tireless leader, Janeice Martin, who runs all three courts in addition to carrying a full caseload as a County Court judge.

Judge Martin’s success rate in dealing with mental health issues has been remarkable. Over a recent three-year period, 251 participated in the courts’ rigorous treatment program. Of those, 65%“graduated,” successfully completing the program. Recidivism among the graduates was less than 30%, weighted over the three courts, an astonishing record.

But it doesn’t end there. Recognizing a need to deal with misdemeanor defendants whose mental illness was so severe that the traditional justice system offered little hope, Judge Martin founded a “rapid-response team” – a group of officials from David Lawrence, the jail and the courts that uses all legal tools available to compel outpatient treatment. Martin’s RRT approach, barely five months old, is already paying dividends – mandated treatment for those who would not otherwise receive it at a significant savings for the taxpayer.

For this pioneering work, Judge Martin was chosen to receive the Murray Hendel Civic Achievement Award for 2018. The award will be presented at a ceremony in December.

Named for Hendel, a Naples icon and cofounder of the Collier Citizens Council, the award honors individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to the community.

Judge Martin has done that and more.

A graduate of Duke University, she received a law degree from the University of Florida and initially practiced criminal law, both as a prosecutor and private defense attorney. She was elected to the bench in 2009 and is now serving her second six-year term in the County Court.

She began doubling up in 2010, taking over the Mental Health Court. In 2011, she added the Drug Court to her responsibilities, and in 2012 she founded the Veterans Court.

A past president of the Collier County Bar Association, Martin serves on the Florida Supreme Court Task Force for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Issues. In addition, she works with State Senator Kathleen Passidomo to draft mental health legislation, always an uphill battle in Tallahassee.

How important have Martin’s efforts been? Commissioner Solis said,

“Judge Martin’s work in the Treatment Courts is one of the most important things going on right now in Collier County.”

We agree.

The Collier Citizens Council is privileged to honor her pioneering work.

Trecker is president of the Collier Citizens Council.

The politics of pollution in an election year

By Dave Trecker 

It’s election season, and the cause celebre this year — at least in South Florida — is out-of-control algae, algae forming blooms that choke our waterways and the worst red tide in 12 years.

Neither of these related problems is new. What’s new is that politicians running for office are being forced to pay attention. Voters have leverage, at least for the moment, and they’re demanding answers.

The problems are so severe they’re hard to overlook. Waterways on both coasts are clogged with blue-green algal blooms, fish-killing sludge that fouls everything in its path. And red tide, caused by a different and naturally occurring algae, is stagnating along our coast, slaughtering marine life, closing beaches, emptying hotels and making life miserable for everyone who breathes its toxic fumes.

What do the two types of algae have in common? Both are fed by nutrients in fertilizer runoff. Soluble nitrogen and phosphorus applied to crops and lawns run off into storm sewers and canals, stoking algae growth and promoting spread. The problem is abetted by ranch waste and sewage from uncontained septic tanks.

Nature plays a role. Periods of high rainfall, e.g. from Irma, heighten runoff.

High temperatures and direct sunlight promote algae growth, and winds and tidal currents affect the location of red tide.

But the problem is largely man-made and pits inland interests — farming, mining, ranching — against those of coastal communities — tourism, boating, fishing. The big loser is the environment, with the polluted runoff threatening coastal estuaries, Big Cypress Swamp and the Everglades.

From where does the problem emanate? Lake Okeechobee gets much of the blame. Fouled runoff from adjoining sugarcane fields is back-pumped into the lake, mixing with pollution from the Kissimmee River basin to the north. When lake levels become higher than the surrounding dike can support, polluted water is discharged into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers, delivering algal sludge to both coasts. Environmentalist Jim Beever was quoted as saying, “The Caloosahatchee is like a nutrient delivery conveyor belt.”

Tallahassee has done little to deal with this, offering half-hearted funding for a reservoir and money to strengthen the dike so the lake can hold more pollution. It’s a sad situation. Politicians, even in an election year, don’t seem to have a clue.

What’s needed? Tough, specific measures that approach the problem from two directions.

• Minimize the pollution: The Florida Department of Environmental Protection should tighten surface and groundwater standards.

This is a no-brainer. Sharply limit soluble nitrogen and phosphorus levels in all waterways, and enforce rules rigorously where pollution is worst — the megafarms, the ranches, the mines. (This will be tough duty for sugarcane farmers, with the industry reeling from depressed sugar prices.)

• Contain and clean up the water once polluted: Get real with the size and number of reservoirs and cleanup marshes needed to deal with the discharges, both south and north of Lake Okeechobee and elsewhere in the state. (Naples-area lakes are laden with phosphorus.)

Accomplishing this will take sustained funding, money off the top, year after year. It will take political will, a readiness to prioritize — recognizing this as a tourism death spiral if not corrected. A wink and a promise, Tallahassee’s past default, won’t get it done.

As voters, we have a chance to apply pressure. Demand that all local and state candidates make a real commitment to cut pollution at its source and clean up the water once polluted.

Don’t vote for any candidate who doesn’t make those commitments. And hold them accountable. If they don’t deliver, vote them out of office. There is always a next election.

Feuer is chairman of the Collier County Presidents Council and Trecker is president of the Collier Citizens Council.

Legislature Renews Home Rule Assault

By Paul Feuer and Dave Trecker

Is government best when it’s closest to home?

The Florida legislature apparently doesn’t think so. It’s continuing its assault on home rule with seven bills this session. (There may be others we missed.)

The bills themselves are not earthshaking; one is downright silly. Taken alone, each has little impact. But taken together they continue the drip, drip gradual wearing away of home rule.

The assault has been going on for some time. Last year, there were eight bills, two of them sufficiently alarming to cause real concern.

House Bill 17 would have transferred to the state the right to regulate businesses, professions and occupations. The language was that broad. Tallahassee would have decided where grocery stores could be located.

The other, Senate Bill 1158, would have forbidden local government from enacting rules or ordinances that had an adverse impact on economic growth. What constituted “adverse impact” would have been decided in Tallahassee.

Thankfully, neither of these preposterous bills passed.

But, undeterred, the home rule antagonists are at it again. Here is this year’s line-up.

House Bill 17/Senate Bill 432 would set rules, reporting standards and funding requirements for Community Redevelopment Agencies tasked with upgrading depressed areas. HB 17 goes even further. It would allow only the state to create new CRAs after October 1, usurping a basic right of local government.

None of this makes any sense. Bureaucrats in Tallahassee know nothing about depressed neighborhoods in Collier County, or elsewhere for that matter. The argument that only the legislature can ensure CRA accountability and transparency is specious. Local government is far better equipped to set its own standards and change them whenever necessary.

In other troubling legislation, House Bill 521/Senate Bill 574 would preempt cities and counties from regulating trimming or removal of trees on private property. No matter if the trees presented a danger to surrounding property, the locals would have no say. Tallahassee would decide.

Then there is Senate Bill 1776, which would forbid local government from regulating vegetable gardens.That’s right. You can’t make this stuff up. General ordinances on irrigation or fertilizer use are okay, but don’t tamper with vegetable gardens!

House Bill 773 and Senate Bill 1400 are more serious. They would strip from local officials the right to regulate vacation rentals, including licensing, inspection and fees. A misbegotten attempt to protect rental property owners, these bills overlook the rights of neighborhoods and nearby businesses, not to mention the renters themselves. The impact on tourism could be considerable. The Naples Daily News called these bills “Tallahassee overreach,” and rightly so.

In most cases, erosion of home rule is tough to justify. The state legislature meets a few months a year; local government meets 10-11 months. The legislature has three representatives from our area out of hundreds from elsewhere in the state, hardly a good ratio for making local decisions. City councilors and county commissioners are easy to contact; state decision-makers less so. Most importantly, city and county authorities are close to the action and know their communities. Tallahassee bureaucrats, hundreds of miles away, do not.

So we call on our state delegation – Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, Rep. Byron Donalds and Rep. Bob Rommel – to oppose HB 17, 521 and 773 and SB 432, 574, 1400 and 1776.

In so doing, they will be striking a blow for home rule in Collier County and affirming what most of their constituents already know: Government is best when it’s closest to home.

Feuer is chairman of the Collier County Presidents Council and Trecker is president of the Collier Citizens Council.

Don’t Overlook Homesharing Option for Housing

By Shelley Rhoads Perry

The affordable/workforce housing debate died down somewhat with the mass exodus north last summer, butthe critical need for solutions awaits our neighbors’ return this fall.

As some commentators have already said, it often feels like we aren’t speaking the same language when we discuss the housing issues. I’m a baby boomer, so affordable housing to me was not specifically workforce housing. It was for people on welfare, living in multi-storied project housing; rented, not owned; clustered in one area; paid for by the government. Affordable housing to someone else might mean Habitat for Humanity Homes, owned by a working occupant, still clustered in one area,but well-built and maintained. My image is out of date; the other, too restrictive.

But this is the 21st century – things have changed. There are innovative affordable housing options that are being successfully deployed in other parts of the state and beyond.Home sharing is one such option. Now projecting my own bias, I can imagine you saying, “I wouldn’t want a stranger in my home, so no one else must want one either.” But we would be wrong.

There are 31 million older Americans living alone in their own homes. We have 25,000 people ages 65+ living alone in Collier County. Some will be able to afford to stay in their home without extra income and some won’t. Those who can afford to stay in their home might welcome company and help around the house. Or they might be willing to share their home if they thought they were making it possible for someone else, e.g., a young teacher or police officer, to live where they work.

The homeshare concept is a very good solution for seniors as it has both social and economic benefits. It can improve the serious problem of social isolation (the estimate is that social isolation costs the Medicare program an additional $6.7 billion a year) and presents the opportunity to have a companion (a younger senior or even younger professional) who pays you instead of you paying a home healthcare agency for the same services.

Homeshare is also an affordable workforce housing component for those young and old who have embraced the sharing economy. The benefits are plentiful and answer objections raised by several stakeholders:

  • It uses the existing housing inventory.
  • It’s an opportunity to have affordable housing options throughout Collier County, not just in one area or district.
  • It’s an idea that is not limited by or dependent on land, zoning or building costs.
  • It can capture meaningful information on the number of workers who find homes with the number of homeproviders (often older seniors) who are able to stay in their homes – valuable information which can help with future decision-making on affordable housing options.
  • It can be a public/private partnership that is economically feasible and self-sustaining for both the county and the participants.

There is no doubt that the affordable/workforce housing issue is complex, but we can move forward if we focus on a component that can be implemented in months, not years. On behalf of the Collier Citizens Council, I urge the Board of County Commissioners to pilot a homeshare program as part of the comprehensive Urban Land Institute plan.

Rhoads Perry, an attorney, is the founder of Lasting Links Solutions, dedicated to providing services for the critical social needs of seniors. In addition to the Collier Citizens Council, she serves on the board of Greater Naples Leadership and Leadership Coalition on Aging.