Challenges

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Road construction, a cold, rainy January, brown water, Zika, development, stormwater fees…did I miss anything?

We have ourselves a bit of a tangle here on the Island these days and just in time for our peak visitor season….and our local campaign season. Not just any campaign season, but one that comes as the national campaign scene has devolved into a mud wrestling pit, but I may be insulting mud wrestling.

It is the very nature of politics for anyone running for any office to point out how terrible the situation has become under the governance of the current regime. Whether it’s national, state, county or local, the people in office now are all nincompoops and barely able to tie their own shoes if you listen to some conversations.

It’s so predictable that it can be entertaining unless you’re one of those alleged nincompoops, of course. But we suspect they are entertained by the knowledge that those who win the election will soon discover that once you’re sitting in that seat, solutions are not as easy as they seem on the campaign trail. On the local level, there are four other council people involved and lawyers and codes and rules and the wheels of government really do grind slowly, even here in our small town.

We do face a number of issues that will need serious and thoughtful consideration in the next few years. Who we elect to Town Council is important. We know we’re not the only ones who think so because there are a number of candidate forums scheduled in the next couple of weeks, each one giving voters a chance to get to know the candidates beyond a slogan or name. Take advantage of these forums. Research the candidates. Know who you are voting for. If you may be out of town or busy on March 15, sign up for a vote by mail ballot or vote early.

It’s baffling to me that out of 5,000 voters in our Town, we’re told that a good turnout would be 1,250 or 25%. Only one in four residents who already made the effort to register to vote will bother to cast a ballot. How sad that is. I think we can do better than that.

Islanders see themselves as unique, connected and involved with their community. Well 25% turnout is not very involved. Let’s encourage Islanders to vote! Ask your friends and neighbors. Do they need a ride to the polls? Do they need information on how to sign up for a vote by mail ballot? Help them find that info. See the Election Information on page 24 of this issue.

Progress

Anyone who has been stuck in traffic or tried to slalom their way down the sidewalk in the road construction zone knows the challenges of dealing with this very-much-needed, but frustrating-all-the-same project.

If you own a business, that frustration has manifested itself in a lot of red ink. Business is down, way down, especially in the construction zone. It could be the weather – January was not exactly a warm sunny month. It could be that there has been pretty decent weather up north in many places. That below-zero push to head south to our shores has been absent for the most part. And it could be that our primary road is torn up and our Town looks like a construction zone.

We can’t do much about the weather, either here or up north. We’ve also been told we can’t do much about the construction. It’s necessary, it’s scheduled, the contract is the contract and they’re doing the best they can.

Except they’ve just found a way to do better. And it’s because some of our business leaders reached out to the businesses suffering and started a dialogue about what would help.

The Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce spearheaded this effort to gather information, then brought businesses together with the Mayor of Fort Myers Beach and our County Commissioner to brainstorm solutions. And while they did not invent the wheel, they found a way to make things better. Not by shouting, not by pointing fingers, not by demonizing the Town or the County or the construction company, but by talking to each other. What a concept!

In today’s paper, you’ll find a letter from Mayor Anita Cereceda sharing the solutions she and Commissioner Larry Kiker have proposed. They may not solve the entire problem, but they are surely a giant step in the right direction.

Let this be a lesson for us all. Even when it seems there’s nothing we can do about a problem, it’s always a good idea to brainstorm with others facing the same problem. Many heads are better than one and all that.

You can help ease that red ink by patronizing beach businesses, especially those in the construction zone. Invite friends to the beach for lunch or dinner. Stroll through Time Square. Enjoy a cold beverage and watch the sun set. Encourage visitors to enjoy the businesses downtown.

We can get through this together- let’s help each other!

Missy Layfield