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Troubled

Marco Island Chamber of Commerce Director Dianna Dohm very properly wrote, chastising Councilman Victor Rios for his thoughtless remark, “Do we need more people here?” at, (ready?), a Tourist Development Council meeting!

However, Dohm’s letter troubled me by declaring that tourism is the “economic lifeblood” of Marco Island. Tourism, of course, is the economic lifeblood of Florida, of Collier County and of members of Marco’s Chamber of Commerce and Board of Realtors. That said, though, there are thousands and thousands of Marco Island residents who would get along quite nicely with just a small tourist element here, (prospective residents), instead of a glitzy, smothering one, thank you.

The Marco sky would not fall without a huge, overpowering tourist industry, although some entrepreneurial bottom lines would.

Probably my thoughts are best expressed by these statements found in Marco Island’s comprehensive plan back around 2001: Deltona sold and permitted Marco Island as a residential community with sufficient commercial development to serve the needs of residents. While incorporation created a city, the roots of the community were sown by the Deltona master plan. The city [now has] the responsibility to see that vision carried through build-out.

Note the emphasis on residents, not on commerce. However, please don’t misunderstand my reaction to Ms. Dohm’s letter.  I don’t oppose reasonable Marco Island expansion.  That’s progress. I simply question unreasonable exaggerations.

Russ Colombo, Marco Island

Rios comments

After reading of Mr. Rios comments at the most recent Tourist Development Council, I am ashamed for myself, the City of Marco Island and to the biggest extent, the Marco City Council. Although I too, am frustrated with the increase of traffic and visitors during the season, I was not appointed by Council to represent Marco Island and the views of the citizen and residents on the TDC. If nothing else, Mr. Rios should be removed from this committee immediately, unless the majority council is happy to see his comments and how he represents our city.

Mr. Rios statements at the meeting brought back to me the action taken by council a few months ago in regards to Gene Burson. Mr. Burson, former chairman of the Beach Advisory Committee, had been nominated by Mr. Brown to again be on this committee. The vote was 5-2 against this appointment because some of you were upset because of letters to the editor that Mr. Burson had written in regards to some actions taken by the new members of council. It was stated that you didn’t think Mr. Burson could objectively be on the committee because his views may not be the same as yours.

That being the case you have two choices. 1. Either ask for Mr. Rios resignation immediately, assuming you are not in agreement with his view regarding tourists; or, 2.-Appoint Mr. Burson to the Marco Beach Advisory Committee where there is currently an opening.

Ray McChesney, Marco Island

Undercurrent of misconception

I would like to thank all the citizens of Marco Island who have taken the time to write, call, or otherwise speak to me recently regarding the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (“COPCN”).  Many of the comments have been extremely helpful and displayed a strong understanding of the issue.

I am writing today because there also seems to be an undercurrent of misconception about this issue floating around the island right now, most likely due to selective information being pushed out rather than all the facts.

We cannot let the COPCN be turned into a political football at the expense of sacrificing a true, issue-based, adult conversation. Remember that political ad from years ago where someone was portrayed as tossing grandma over the cliff? Our community deserves better than that kind of rhetoric. This will impact our island for years to come.

There are multiple options we need to properly vet so that our community can make a fully informed decision – for example:

Operating our own COPCN license with county permission; working out a better deal than the status quo with Collier County to achieve additional support, including another full-time ambulance; work to change state law so that we control our own destiny; some combination of the above.

Key point here: currently the city cannot have its own COPCN license without first seeking and then being granted approval by the county, which is not guaranteed. This is current state law. This is a big problem that I spoke out about as a citizen back in late 2015/early 2016. I am a strong supporter of home rule and I believe that the cty should have been seeking to amend state statute so that chartered municipalities like Marco Island could make that decision for themselves rather than being at the mercy of the county. Unfortunately, no action was taken on that front by prior council. Achieving a change in state law is no easy task and would face opposition but we should have been putting pressure on all fronts. Not utilizing our lobbyist or working with our state legislative delegation well in advance has put us at a significant disadvantage from a leverage standpoint. This is something we can change for next legislative session.

All of the potential options have associated positives and negatives and varying degree of fiscal impact. I have stated during the past campaign, and most recently during Monday’s City Council meeting, that we need to take a multi-pronged approach to provide our citizens legitimate options, not scare-tactics. Some have been frightened to believe that this COPCN discussion means the City Council will be eliminating ambulance availability or getting lower quality of service. That is certainly not the case. We’re having this discussion because the county may (not definitely) be consolidating its services and we don’t want to see that negatively impact Marco Island. This is about how can we work out the best deal possible for our citizens to ensure the highest level of service while also making sure to keep the associated costs as low as possible without sacrificing quality of care.

The bottom line is that whichever path we ultimately agree to take on together as a community, it’s going to take true tenacity, grit, and solid good faith negotiations with the county (and potentially the State of Florida through our legislative delegation) to achieve our desired end. I have been a strong proponent of rebuilding our relationship with Collier County and looking beyond the Jolley Bridge so that we can advance initiatives that improve the quality of life for our Marco Island citizens. I also know that when you have multiple issues that need resolution (COPCN, Goodland Road, parking issues, taxes, and more) that it is best to put them all on the table when it comes time to negotiate to increase the likelihood of a mutually satisfactory result, especially when considering the strengths and weakness of each position.

I look forward to the opportunity to discuss this more with you, with our County Commission, and with our legislators. Please call me at 239-315-2089 or email me at JGrifoni@MarcoCityCouncil.com so we can talk more about this issue.

Jared Grifoni, vice-chairman, Marco Island City Council

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