Most people were thinking about how they would be voting the next day.
But a dedicated group of activists, waving signs and handing out literature, put another issue in front of passing motorists Monday at the intersection of U.S. 41 and Golden Gate Parkway: The potential lease of Alligator Alley.
“It just happens to be coincidence,” said organizer Dan Cook, of the timing of Monday’s “Rally for the Alley.”
“We didn’t want to wait any longer. They’re making a decision about this in December.”
Cook, 26, is a new face on the scene in the local fight against a lease of Alligator Alley. He said he heard about the issue recently from other Collier County residents who have been vocal critics of the lease proposal, on the table before the Florida Department of Transportation.
To raise awareness, he joined husband and wife Jack and City Kemp to call together a group of about a dozen people, who stood on the southwest corner of the intersection at rush hour. Nearby, a small group of activists held up signs urging voters to approve a referendum that would add funding to Collier County schools through a small sales tax, a reminder that Election Day was around the corner.
“I honestly don’t drive the Alley that much,” said Cook. “I just don’t like the idea of a public road being owned by a foreign corporation.”
Cook and the Kemps approached car windows as the lights turned red, handing out small sheets of paper outlining the potential lease, and asking them to mail pre-addressed envelopes to the governor, stuffed with tea bags and a note asking Gov. Charlie Crist not to lease the Alley. It is meant to be a small-scale, figurative Boston Tea Party.
“It’s so American,” said Cindy Kemp. “The idea of tea bags - people can relate to that.” A few paces away, Barbara Bateman stood holding a sign reading, “America owns Alligator Alley; No sale to foreign investors.” “It’s a national security issue,” said Bateman. “They’re selling off our ports, our railroads, and soon, we won’t be the United States of America.” With final bids due to FDOT in December by six teams consisting mostly of international firms, time is running out, said Cook. He said he hopes to organize more rallies over the next month to continue raising awareness.
But with the news cycle dominated by election coverage, opponents of the Alley lease may have to wait for a little smoke to clear.
Final bids for the 50- to 75-year lease are due to FDOT Dec. 15, with the state’s Legislative Budget Commission expected to vote on the issue in the first months of 2009.