Whatever their view of local issues, most Marco Islanders should have no problem agreeing with City Councilor Charlette Roman with her paramount New Year’s wish.
“My first wish for 2018 is – no hurricanes!” wrote Roman, in response to an email asking elected officials, along with a few civic and professional leaders, to share their thoughts, priorities and resolutions for the New Year. “Improving transparency and accountability will be my first priorities in 2018, beginning with a look at our city election processes. Council will need to concentrate on its policy roles while the city manager builds and trains his staff into an operational team that effectively supports council’s decision-making.
“For everyone, understanding the key roles of local government and how they must function together to work effectively for all citizens will be critical going forward,” she said, citing hiring the new city manager as a “major step towards demonstrating to the community that we can work together towards achieving effective government for Marco Islanders.”
“As Chairman of the City Council, my goals and priorities over the next year are to continue to improve our City Council meetings by making them more efficient and respectful of the public’s interest, time, and money,” wrote Jared Grifoni. “I will prioritize items of public interest by placing them earlier in the agenda, adding “time certain” items for better planning (and saving money for citizens), and moving non-controversial or non-essential items to the consent agenda or at the end of the schedule.
“As the creator of the ‘three-pronged’ approach to the COPCN issue, I will continue to advance this pro-Marco Island policy by securing the long-time Council goal of improving the emergency services for our island, whether through the County or State, leading up to our referendum in August 2018.
“Finally, I will work with our new city manager on a fiscally conservative FY2019 budget that will prioritize services most important to our citizens. My goal will be adopting the rollback millage rate or better for the second year in a row, keeping more money in our citizens’ pockets.
“My personal New Year’s resolution for 2018 is to spend as much quality time as possible and to be a positive role model both for my new baby boy due in February and my entire family.”
Councilor Howard Reed identified five key issues for the New Year, along with a personal resolution “spend more time on our sailboat” with family and friends.
“Last year our City Council committed over $1.6 million toward improving the quality of our streets by re-surfacing and correcting the issues caused during the STRP construction. I hope that we provide our staff with the support to make this significant improvement a reality and extend this level of spending going forward.
“We are in the midst of an opportunity to improve how we manage stormwater on our island. The significant rains we received last summer and the impacts of Irma have shown how critical this issue is to our quality of life here on our island.
“Our beach is beautiful and in good shape after the storms, but we will be seeking additional help from the county and other sources to complete the renourishment programs.
“A major rewrite of the Land Development Code has been underway for much of 2017 and I believe that finishing this important code is a priority for 2018.
“I believe that 2018 holds the opportunity for a dramatic improvement in the way that we provide emergency healthcare to our citizens through resources located here on Marco Island.”
Councilor Larry Honig was uncharacteristically concise, even pithy, in his goals and priorities for the New Year.
Number one, said Honig, is to “persuade the Collier County School Board to help Marco Island Academy, a public school, build a permanent school, as it did with our other two Island public schools. Marco Island taxpayers send $42 million every year to the Collier County School Board, which will not give Marco Island Academy one penny for a building. It's nearly a crime.”
His second goal: “Encourage our new city manager to bring with confidence to Marco Island government a level of professionalism that will put to rest the infighting, politicking, back-room deals, favoritism, and alleged improper and illegal activity, so that all of us involved in government can calm down and do our assigned or elected jobs with enthusiasm and pride.
Honig included a personal New Year's resolution – ‘Get my Ironman time back under 13 hours.’ ”
The week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve is a notoriously difficult time to track down people, and a number of those approached for comment were traveling or otherwise unavailable, including new City Manager Lee Niblock. Councilor Victor Rios was also away, and apologized for not having his notes in front of him, but nevertheless produced a comprehensive list of goals for 2018.
“Getting a second ambulance full time is a priority and the council can continue working together to that end. In parallel, work with the Collier County delegation in Tallahassee for COCPN approval by the State Legislators,” wrote Rios. “With that make sure we properly educate our citizens for the referendum in August 2018 on the tax impact to set up our own ambulance system. If we set up our own ambulance system work with the County Commissioners to address the issue of also being taxed by the County for EMS services. We need a formula for better sharing the costs involved.
“Water quality as it relates to better management of storm water disposal into the canals as part of the MS-4,” came next, followed by, “Get approval of the ordinance to have a citywide requirement for fully biodegradable straws since plastic straws are severely impacting our wildlife, which is one of our economic engines.”
Rios wants to have “Veterans Community Park defined as a park instead of a PUD, and also the final approval of the elimination of density credits, to better control growth” and keep small town atmosphere desired by the majority of our citizens.”
Finally, Rios wants to “address the continued erosion of the South Beach area from the Hilton down to Cape Marco. We need to not only work with Collier County Coastal Management organization, but also with the County Commissioners to try to have a more permanent solution to the continued erosion that impacts our number one economic engine.”
Councilor Bob Brown saw his email just before deadline, and gave a succinct statement of his top priorities.
To ensure better emergency medical service, a “COPCN for the residents of Marco Island is a key goal,” said Brown. The city, he said, should “work on getting necessary tools for staff to accommodate our residents, such as providing “improved data to help (the) permitting process,” and “tools necessary so our police can keep Marco Island the safest place in state.”
At the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce, “I can’t believe it’s been a year since (I was) appointed executive director,” said Dianna Dohm. “Time flies is an understatement. This past year, together with staff, we have worked very hard to improve our processes and stream line our operations.
Now that I have a full understanding of the business, I look forward to working with our board in developing programs and better opportunities to assist our members in promoting their businesses. The expanding 951-41 corridor provides us a great opportunity to increase our membership. More members means more business for all of us and more visibility in the community.
“Also, Collier County and the TDC have outlined a number of business growth initiatives for 2018 and I plan to make sure the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce has a voice in those initiatives.”
In the interregnum between general managers Rick Medwedeff and Sharon Lockwood, director of sales and marketing Amanda Cox addressed priorities for the JW Marriott in the New Year.
“Our goals and priorities,” she wrote, include:
“Successfully launch our Lanai Tower meeting space, welcoming a variety of new conventions and business travelers. Our booking pace numbers show that the completion of this $300 Mmillion project will yield the most significant results in the off and shoulder seasons, and we are so excited to see the corresponding impact on the local economy in all areas- restaurants, retail, transportation and much more.
“Create an enriching resort experience for travelers seeking an exclusive vacation via the opening of the JW Marriott Marco Island adult exclusive collection of guest rooms and amenities.
“Continue to partner with the CVB and Tourist Development Council to ensure we deliver a targeted message of destination restoration (post Hurricane Irma) to well-position the Collier County hospitality industry for success in 2018 and beyond. The JW Marriott Marco Island will start the year with a substantial donation to the Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida, with funds raised through guests who booked vacations when we re-opened after Irma in response to our ‘Return to Paradise’ campaign (returntoparadisemarco.com). Our new General Manager, Sharon Lockwood, brings with her a robust resume of community outreach, and we look forward to her impact on our resort’s Spirit to Serve culture.
“With two children under five, her personal resolution is to be ‘present in the moment’ and find a work/life balance.”
Donna Fiala, Marco Island’s representative on the Collier County Commission, said she “would love to bring some significant restaurants and retailers to the 951/41 corridor/intersection. This area is truly in need of restaurants and shops that can serve upscale residents who come from all over the world and would prefer to stay on this side of town. Marco loves to try new restaurants, and the new and upcoming developments along U.S. 41 and 951 are all clamoring for some fine restaurants such as Fleming's Steak House or P.F. Chang's to begin to name a few.
“Continue strengthening our already tremendous relationship with Marco Island. We work so well together, and I'd like to see that continue, and I will do everything I can to continue to foster that feeling.”
Across the Jolley Bridge, Fiala advocated for “the expansion of the Bocce Ball Park and parking on Isles of Capri. These people love their community bocce ball games, and we need to help them by buying the small pieces of land for more parking while we still can.”
“Personally, I am looking for my replacement now, but that person must care about each section of my district, not just one area. If I cannot find that person, well. … we’ll see what happens.”
She urged everyone for a New Year resolution, to “love your family and your neighbors, and always treat people kindly. We'd all be much happier, that's for sure. Personally I will continue to strive to do the best that I can with the gifts that God has given me,” said Fiala.