Jim Atterholt, Candidate Guest Opinion

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Clean water on and around our island is the most critical issue we face. My wife Brenda and I are blessed to live directly on the beach and we experienced first-hand the horrific impacts of Red Tide and Blue-Green Algae in 2018. There is rarely a day when we are not running, walking, swimming or riding our bikes along the beach. Both the environmental as well as the economic damage from this disaster is seared in my memory. How can a candidate for Fort Myers Beach Town Council help make a difference? As the solutions to this problem are long term, we must better engage the thousands of tourists and part-time residents who visit each year and urge them to contact their members of congress back home. They need to stress to their member of Congress the critical need to continue to support the legislative solutions and funding that are just beginning to have a positive impact in Florida.

I propose creating the “Snowbird Advocacy Army” for Fort Myers Beach. The Town could use all the tools it has at its disposal to mobilize and educate these folks on how best to take action. I worked for a Member of Congress for 16 years and I can tell you that five or ten well written letters on a particular subject can spur action by an individual member of Congress. We need to educate our snowbirds on why these water quality projects are so important, how to contact their member of Congress and what specific piece of legislation they need to support.

We also can’t neglect to keep the pressure on at the state level as well. I had the privilege of serving two terms as an elected state representative in the Indiana legislature and later as chief of staff to the Governor. We must keep our state laser focused on the goal of clean water. During our off season, we need to start the “Floridian Advocacy Reserve” to advise the tourists, who are from all around Florida, on how best to reach out to their state legislators to tell them to support these same water quality projects and funding at the state level. The attention span of government can be short. I hope to use my experience at both the federal and state level to help the Town Council keep the pressure on.

 

By Jim Atterholt
Town Council Candidate

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