Just as on your birthday, you are really just one day older, not a year all at once, the transition from Dec. 31 to Jan. 1 is just another page off the calendar. But it is the last page, and opens a new chapter.
The Eagle asked some local civic and community leaders where they see the Island heading for the coming year, and incidentally any New Year’s resolutions they could share with our readers. Either the custom of New Year’s resolutions is waning, or it was just too early to have them in mind, but many of the respondents didn’t have any, didn’t plan to make them, or perhaps just weren’t telling.
“I never make New Year’s resolutions,” said Marco Island City Manager Dr. Jim Riviere. “I just don’t see any fruit there.” Riviere did see interesting issues ahead for the city. “It’s an election year, and that adds excitement.” Financially, he said, the city needs to continue its belt-tightening.
“We have not turned the corner. We have to keep operating tighter and tighter,” he said. “We have a lot of groups, and in the past the city has been very generous, but we just don’t have the funds. People say, oh it’s just a few dollars, but it sure adds up fast.”
City Clerk Laura Litzan expects to be “very, very busy” with information requests from candidates for election. She did specify one resolution.
“I’m going to take my friend Phyllis Muccino, whose age will not be revealed, out on an airboat ride in the Everglades,” she promised.
State Representative Kathleen Passidomo, the island’s voice in Tallahassee, says “I’m not making New Year’s resolutions, because I always break them,” referring to pledges on diet and exercise. “But my commitment to the voters, to represent my community with honesty, integrity, and enthusiasm and make a difference, I won’t break those.
“Our critical goal is to pass a balanced budget without raising taxes,” she said of legislative priorities. “Plus, we’re drawing maps for redistricting, and there will be a lot of challenges.”
On mortgage reform, an issue Passidomo, a real estate attorney, has emerged as a leader on, she said, “in cases of abandoned property, we’ve got to speed up the process, and get people in those houses who care about them.” All bills on the subject, she noted, begin and end with her committees, Civil Justice and Judiciary.
“I want to continue to protect my district, and keep moving forward,” said Marco’s County Commissioner Donna Fiala. “I would like to win re-election next year, and to see more respect and civility in government, which would lead to progress. We’re going to be opening passes at Collier Bay, to remove silt, and allow boat traffic to pass a little easier.
“Personally, I would like to lose a little weight,” she added.
“I learned a long time ago not to make resolutions,” said Marco City Council Chairman Jerry Gibson. “Public resolutions are different. All I ask is God grant us the wisdom to make the best decisions.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt our next priority. Water rates are the major issue we’ll be facing. And at the end of the year, four council seats are up for election. I’m eligible for one four-year term; I just haven’t made a decision.”
Council Vice Chairman Larry Magel agreed on the importance of utility rates in the coming year.
“That’s the principal thing coming down the road. Today we get the cost of service study, and we’ll have a series of meetings and rate hearings,” he said. “We’re trying to implement something late in the first quarter.
“The continuation of the budget process,” Magel said, is the next issue, with attention then shifting to the November city council election. “With four seats up for grabs, those can provide majority control.” Personally, “the only thing I resolve is to continuously stay on a diet, and continue my quest to shed some pounds.”
Cindy Love, Greater Marco Family YMCA CEO, said her resolutions and priorities focus around health.
“Especially at the Y, my resolution is to lose weight, and I want to spend more time with my family,” she said. “Nationally, the issues around diabetes are paramount. How can we help get the word out? Michele Obama endorsed a lot of Y programs. Our children need to live healthier lives.”
Kevin Donlan, incoming president of the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce, said his goal for the New Year is to “really let the business community know that the chamber can do for them. We help them network, get the word out, and drive tourism and business to the island. We want to let businesses know all the tools the chamber has to help them.”
As Chairman of Christmas Island Style, perhaps Steve Stefanides’ resolution should be to disappear for a month or two, and just sleep. But the Naples Daily News Volunteer of the Year for 2011, with a list of civic involvement as long as your arm, wants to plunge ahead.
“My resolution? Simple … it is to continue to place service above self; simply put this means I will continue to whatever is necessary to continue to improve our community in whatever endeavor I’m called on to participate in,” said Stephanides in an e-mail.
“Our challenges are substantial, but manageable if we come together to tackle them and look at the long-term solutions to improve the economic environment for citizens and businesses. Our ability to meet the needs of those most vulnerable within the community is directly tied to a vibrant and growing economy.” Successful businesses, he said, are able and willing to support philanthropy.