Resolute: Community leaders share their plans, predictions for 2019
We asked a number of Marco Island’s leading citizens, along with governmental leaders who help shape the agenda for the area, for their thoughts on the New Year, both resolutions, whether personal or institutional, and any predictions they cared to share concerning the upcoming happenings of 2019.
These folks, who will be not only living through the events, but helping to steer them, peered into their own crystal balls, and herewith we offer their thoughts.
State Senator Kathleen Passidomo, Southwest Florida’s representative in the Florida Senate, gave her top three priorities for the upcoming year in the legislature. These are, she said in an email, to “continue efforts to address mental health issues in the community and state; work collaboratively with the state, other local governments and the environmental and business communities to address water quality issues; make meaningful progress to provide opportunities for affordable work-force housing.
“I generally don’t make any New Year’s resolutions,” she said. “I take every day as it comes ... always try to keep my sense of humor and never drink the Kool Aid.”
Collier County Commission Chairman Andy Solis laid out a to-do list for the commission, with the priorities he sees as critical for the county in the new year:
“Mental health: Working with the newly created Mental Illness and Addiction Ad Hoc Committee on creating a strategic plan for the County and guiding the implementation of the sales surtax as it relates to creation of a central receiving facility.
“Water quality: Collaborating with our state and federal partners in working toward a better understanding of red tide and what role county government can play in a solution; and ensuring that we are doing all we can locally, including revisiting our fertilizer ordinance and pollution control efforts to address the deteriorating quality of our canals, rivers and streams.
“Diversifying the economy: Continue to support the efforts of our Office of Economic Development to attract new businesses in tech, medical and clean manufacturing, while working to retain and expand our local businesses. We must also continue to promote entrepreneurship through the Naples Accelerator and the Culinary Accelerator in Immokalee. A major component of economic development must be developing the future workforce and addressing housing affordability.
“Growth management: We must complete the re-studies of the major Growth Management Plans – the Rural Fringe, RLSA and the Golden Gate and the Immokalee Master Plans – so that they reflect more current market, business and environmental conditions, in order to properly manage the future growth of Collier County.”
Commissioner Donna Fiala had restaurants and pickleball on her mind, although when initially asked to contribute, noted her response would have to wait as she was baking holiday items for the county’s Growth Management Department, a wily way to make sure your own priorities get favorable treatment from the government bureaucrats.
“New Year's Resolution: Bring Fleming's Steak House to East Naples, plus other restaurants and retail stores, but Fleming's first,” said Fiala.
“Continue the effort to upgrade Bayshore Drive and surrounding areas to give them a better quality of life, including art, entertainment and community involvement to this deserving area.
“Hopeful prediction: That all the commissioners work together to improve areas that are in stress at this time.
“I predict that The Pickleball U. S. Open Championship Tournaments top all predictions and keep Collier reigning as the Pickleball Capital of the World!”
“My tendency is to often get too far over my skis, so my New Year’s resolution is to exercise a great deal more patience, with my family, my friends and my colleagues,” said newly-elected Marco Island City Council Chair Erik Brechnitz.
“I believe in 2019, Marco island residents see a more effective and more cooperative City Council. I look for good things to happen. Some important things that we will accomplish, in my opinion are as follows: we will hire a professional, experienced, and accomplished permanent city manager; we will begin a process to improve water quality in our canals; we will approve a final design for Veterans Park and as well as a way to fund it. If we can accomplish those things and improve the efficiency of city government along the way, it will be a highly successful year.”
Immediate past City Council Chair Jared Grifoni waxed hopeful and philosophical.
“My resolutions for 2019: To serve the common good, to experience life from the present and in harmony with the actual course of nature, and to be indifferent to indifferent things.
“My predictions for 2019 for Marco Island: A new city manager and improved level of service to our citizens, a renewed focus on water quality and fiscally conservative budgeting, and lots of excitement over the return of the Key Marco Cat to the Marco Island Historical Museum,” said Grifoni.
From City Councilor Larry Honig: “For the City, I want a calm and collegial City Council … and a great, permanent city manager.” For Marco Island as a whole, he predicted, “we will figure out a way to renovate and upgrade the main fire station, get our water-sewer utility employees into better and safer accommodations, and start working on Veterans Community Park;” and secondly, “the state will intervene and help Marco Island Academy with a permanent, storm-hardened classroom building and gymnasium.”
City Councilor Victor Rios offered these priorities:
“Complete the hiring of the city manager that will fill that role for until we hire a permanent CM. At the last meeting we voted 6-1 to offer the position to Mr. David Harden, a very experienced CM who will fill the role until we hire a permanent CM.
“Initiate the process to hire a new permanent CM as soon as possible. Address the storm water issue including taking measures to reduce or eliminate pollutants that may find the way into our canals and the Gulf. Approve the second reading of our endangered species which has been sponsored by me and for which we had the first reading at the meeting of Dec. 10.
“We need to look again at the water and sewer rates which continues to be a major issue for our ratepayers.
“Continue working in addressing our infrastructure issues, in particular roadway maintenance as well as the completion of Fire Station 51 and also initiate the Station 50 projects for which we also have requested help from our State representatives and Senator.
“Work with our State delegation to obtain funds to help with the management of storm water in key areas of the city as well as to address obtaining funds to help with finally having a safe and secure high school … building may be used, once completed, as a possible “in-town” evacuation center.”
City Councilor Charlette Roman said she doesn’t make personal resolutions, but made this prediction:
“In 2019, more Marco Islanders will join those who have been engaging with councilors and other government officials. They will add their voices to demand ending the decade-long pattern of ineffective governance. City Council must listen to citizens’ concerns and take action to set priorities for Marco Island. They must then plan and budget accordingly. Protection of our natural environment should take center stage because our continued economic prosperity and island quality of life depend upon a healthy ecosystem.”
New City Councilor Sam Young had a number of thoughts:
In 2019 we’re off to a good start by a majority vote on an interim city manager which is a key step forward for all citizens and will ultimately lead us to a full time city manager.
Recall the straw poll taken during one of the candidate forums that ranked voter issues, and the top three in the following order: 1. Water quality; 2. Managing growth and controlling island density; 3. Hiring a city manager.
On my cornerstone issue, water quality … we’ve allowed the city to create a stormwater system that rapidly conveys polluted water from nearly 1,400 inlets and out nearly 500 outlets directly into our canals. And we wonder how our waterways failed FDEP annual levels for Nitrogen. I’m sorry but we did this to ourselves through this conveyance system currently in place. Our waterways and beaches drive our quality of life, generate tourist revenue and affect our home values. There are many things we can do to fix it, and some we can do immediately, but for the sake of brevity, rest assured that I’m working on them now and presenting them to council and our citizens shortly.
We’re nearly built out with very little green space left, so let’s make the most of what we have left. For starters, I don’t believe the citizens support having a mega-sized (top one percent in size) adult living facility (ALF) at one of the busiest intersections, Bald Eagle and San Marco, with up to 200 occupants taking up most the last large parcel of green space left.
While I could go on, I’ll conclude with my desire to include citizen input through regular citizen surveys to be professionally done at least twice yearly.
Marco’s Fire-Rescue Chief Mike Murphy said, “The New Year’s resolution is to work towards a healthier Marco.
“Predictions? This year will start the main fire station long awaited reconstruction.”
MIPD Chief of Police Al Schettino said, “We look forward to working together with our community partners to keep Marco Island a safe and wonderful place to live, work and visit.”
Marco Island Area Association of Realtors president Steve Josselyn said:
“I resolve to work with our new leadership team to mend any broken fences that were damaged as a result of the merger discussion this last year.
“I also resolve to help meet the challenge to engage our membership with ideas and opportunities to be actively involved in forming the future of MIAAOR.
“As for a prediction, I believe that barring any economic, environmental, or geopolitical calamities, that the Marco Island real estate market will remain stable and we will continue to see property values increase in the traditional 3-5 percent range.”
Dianna Dohm, executive director of the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce, said her chamber resolutions are to:
“Continue assisting our Chamber Members in developing successful year-round businesses strategies. Expand membership up through the growing 41/951 corridor. Work on developing a co-op insurance program for our small independent businesses.”
Island priorities, she said, are to “Protect our eco-friendly environment in order to attract visitors year-round; secure a full time city manager, and continue to improve the city’s permitting process.”
Steven Falciani, general manager of the Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort and Spa, offered as resolutions, “More widespread use of sustainable produce and locally sourced ingredients to help support the local economy and environment in good times and bad; and greater state-wide efficiencies in developing and maintaining a clean coastline for all Floridians and their visitors with the Marco Island community continuing to spearhead best practice environmental initiatives.
His predictions are, “Picture perfect weather all year long because we’re optimists, and “a banner year for Marco Island’s hospitality industry, with increasing visitors and island-wide meetings and events.”
Amen – and Happy New Year, Marco Island.