Forward or Back

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Next week is a pretty big week for our Island. It’s Qualifying Week for the March 7th Town Council election. Any candidate who wants to be on the ballot must have all their forms and fees turned in by noon, Friday, January 20th.

This is “where the rubber meets the road.” Time to “fish or cut bait” –  “Put up or shut up.” The American language is rich in idioms that refer to the moment of truth – when its time to walk the talk or sit down.

Our Island is undergoing a transformation and we don’t mean Estero Boulevard. Looking back, just a few years, we had a Town Council that could work together, spoke to each other in civil tones, even if they disagreed and managed to get things done. Want an example? How about north Estero Blvd. A complex project with many moving parts and stakeholders, yet it got done, on budget and ahead of schedule.

Try to imagine any such project occurring with our present council. Maybe you can do it, but our imagination doesn’t stretch that far.

We see what we’ve seen for almost a year now – a cantankerous, angry, “my way or the highway” approach to just about every subject that comes before the council. Not all of them, but enough that progress on just about anything has ground to a halt. Minds are made up before any discussion begins. But that doesn’t stop council from arguing the point for hours before voting on the issue – with the same result as if the vote had been taken early on in the discussion because there is no careful consideration of other’s points or opinions by some council members. Sometimes, we wonder if they hear anything but their own voices at all.

We could all save a whole lot of time – council members time, staff time, citizen time — if we had a mayor who would move agenda items along, call for a vote in a timely manner or even, dare we hope, lead the council in restoring respect and civility to council meetings. We don’t see that happening, as from where we sit, it often looks as if the mayor is somehow amused by the rancorous lack of decorum so often seen these days in our council meetings.

The chaos that characterizes our current council meetings makes it a little hard to encourage Island citizens to consider running for a seat on Town Council, but that is exactly what our community needs right now. We need three engaged, intelligent and mature citizens to volunteer to work to serve our entire community. We need council representatives that have not already decided to  “just vote no” on anything brought before them.

Voting no is not going to bring back that idyllic fishing village community of years ago. It’s not going to turn the clock back and make this Island look and act like it did 40 years ago.

We need leaders that can look forward and not backward, leaders that can evaluate projects for how they will serve our community both now and in the future. We need leaders that are willing to listen to all Islanders, those who vote and those who pay the bills via taxes to our Town. We need leaders who, while recognizing our Island’s rich history, do not worship it to the point of crippling our future.

Estero Boulevard is torn up. We can catch a glimpse of what it will be like when it’s completed in the small area that is done. Estero Blvd. is very much a reflection of our community right now, maybe of our entire country. We can’t do much about what’s going on beyond our bridges, but we hold the power to dramatically change what’s going on right here.

Do you want to help bring Fort Myers Beach into the future? Do you have an open mind and a keen sense of curiosity to hear new ideas that may help us? Would you consider running for council? This Island desperately needs people willing to look forward and include the needs of all Islanders in their deliberations.

Is that you? If so, you have until noon, Friday, January 20th, to stand up and do your part to help shape the transformation of our Island and bring civility back to our Town Council.

Islanders deserve better representation than they’ve been getting the last year.

 

Missy Layfield