Guest column: Establishment braces for new county commission

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Guest commentary

Change is in the air. And with it some panic.

The old guard — the cabal of Fred Coyle, Donna Fiala and Jim Coletta which ran the Collier County Commission for many years — is no more. Coletta lost to Tim Nance in District 5. With Nance's victory in the general election, the balance of power has shifted.

Commissioners Tom Henning and Georgia Hiller, previously on the short end of most votes, can count on Nance to take a fresh look at things. Lockstep voting will be a thing of the past.

Nance won and so did Clerk of Courts Dwight Brock, a watchdog over county spending. The victories by Nance and Brock and the re-election of Henning ensure there will be no more business as usual.

The prospect of change has county government in high dudgeon.

Outgoing Commissioner Coletta told Jeff Lytle on his "Naples Daily NewsMakers" TV program, "There's some kind of witch hunt that's taking place on the part of Commissioner Georgia Hiller" — this in reference to the self-firing of staffer Ian Mitchell, whose sensibilities were offended by poor morale.

Then there was Hiller's dispute with county staff over its contention that document copies could be withheld from the public if that led to better office efficiency.

You can't make this stuff up.

Most recently, Fiala, about to lose her rubber-stamp majority, made a parliamentary move to keep the incoming board from withholding funds for Hideaway Beach. "I figured to beat him at his own game," Fiala told the Daily News, referring to Henning, who opposed the public grant for a private beach.

Coletta tried similar tactics to lock in past votes and bind the new board to old policies.

All of this was piled on top of months of bad behavior and lack of civility.

No question, change is unsettling. But there is going to be change. You can count on the new commission to do things differently.

Here are some predictions.

Unbridled spending will stop. Mindful of the massive county debt, the new board will scrutinize spending closely.

There will be a serious attempt to root out waste and duplication.

There will be higher standards for dealing with contractors and more accountability in assessing results.

An altogether new look will be taken at economic development.

The views of the residents will not only be sought, they will be taken seriously. And about time.

There will be no more attempts to ram through a Jackson Lab without voter approval.

Transparency will be the order of the day.

Let's hope I'm right. We won't have to wait long to find out. The new era begins on Dec. 11.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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