A year ago, I pulled out my crystal ball & tea leaves and boldly made my Top Ten Predictions for 2019! With the year rapidly winding down, it is time to rate my prognostications and tally up my final score. The first paragraph below each header is my 2019 prediction, with my analysis following it.
- Legal Beagle Eagle:
Now that a local resident filed two lawsuits against the Town of Fort Myers Beach to halt construction of the proposed TPI Hospitality’s Margaritaville FMB Resort, courts do what courts do best and move these cases along at a glacial pace, meaning we will all celebrate the 15th Anniversary of Hurricane Charley on August 13 still with a panoramic view of a slum as the front door to Paradise.
1 for 1, right out of the gate! The resident dropped the first lawsuit over the summer, possibly because a loss in court might mean her major hotel benefactor would have to pay everyone’s legal bills, then in September the Judge dismissed the second case. At the final minute to submit an appeal, they did, meaning that we will enter 2020 still in court and no construction date yet at the Margaritaville FMB site! Long Live The Slum!
- Town Turnover:
After a year of relative stability among Town Hall Staff in 2018, the New Year marks another 12 months of personnel shake-ups. I foresee at least six significant Staff turnovers in the next calendar year.
You can’t win ‘em all, so I am 1 out of 2! Only three major Town Staff shake-ups occurred during the past year, and while that is a Loss for me, it is a Win for most Fort Myers Beach residents, as Town Hall experience is usually a much-appreciated and needed commodity. I almost earned partial credit here, but Town Council just recently extended the contract for the Town Attorney by a whisker-thin 3 to 2 vote.
- Christmas Concrete Carryover:
If you like the concrete barrier wall between the Red Coconut RV Park to Connecticut Street and points south for Christmas 2018, you will love it again for Christmas 2019! If there is a saving grace, Estero Boulevard work continues to move south, further from the primary tourism district, with full-time residents baring the greatest frustration!
A tough grader may say that the double-barreled rows of construction barrels separating the travel lanes from the center lane stormwater drainage system installation does not count as a concrete wall, but they serve the same purpose, meaning drivers in each direction can only turn right onto Estero Boulevard, with few openings for vehicular and pedestrian crossings. As for the second part, for the first time in four Christmases, there is no construction near Lovers Lane and the Red Coconut RV Park, meaning you now must drive south of Publix Supermarket at mid-island to encounter major construction.
I’m not a tough grader, though, so I sing along with Meatloaf that “2 outta 3 ain’t bad!”
- A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall:
Despite the horrific Fort Myers Beach water quality conditions in 2018, we really did not have an extremely wet season rainfall-wise, yet all that changes in 2019, when our area encounters a well above-average but not record-setting rain total.
This prediction left me high-&-dry, as 2019 is just a few inches above a normal rainfall year. Any hope I had dried up when, after Hurricane Dorian gave us a real scare over the Labor Day weekend, rainy reason suddenly and mysteriously ended six weeks early. Back to .500 at 2 & 2.
- I Am Woman; Hear Me Roar!
An influx of new members, new officers, and new energy continues to add a new synergy to the Fort Myers Beach Woman’s Club! Its building and current large wedge of mostly unused property gains traction all through 2019, with the Woman’s Club campus becoming The FMB Place to Be!
While the FMB Woman’s Club enjoyed a 2018 resurgence, 2019 ended up being strangely quiet, dooming me below 50/50 for the first time, at 2 & 3.
- That’s History!
Not only does the currently-under-renovation “Red Shutter Cottage” be successfully relocated to the Estero Island Historic Society grounds for permanent preservation, but the newly-constituted Historic Advisory Board saves at least two other historic island buildings from the wrecking ball!
So this is what a losing streak feels like? Not only is the “Red Shutter Cottage” nowhere in sight, but the EIHS grounds are actually closed due to the Matanzas Pass Preserve renovations. While the Historic Advisory Board did a nice job in producing its “50 Most Historic Island Houses” list, it did not swoop in and save the day for any. 2 & 4 drops me to .333.
- Council Two-Seat Two-Step:
The March 2019 election will produce two new Town Council members. The Crystal Ball isn’t quite clear enough to see if Mayor Tracey Gore or Council member Dennis Boback will run for 2nd terms; if they each step down, then this prediction is a given, but if they do choose re-election, a little bird tells me they will lose.
Finally a win again! I got this one right in each direction, as former Mayor Gore chose not to seek a second term, but Boback did with a thump! He finished 4th out of the four candidates for the 2 seats, drawing just 12% of the vote – that is less than one out of every eight voters. Former Mayor Ray Murphy and former Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafros were the victorious candidates, and I won right with them, improving to 3 up, 4 down.
- Return to Mayberry:
Remember those classic episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show,” when Andy and Barney drove around Mayberry at all hours of the night and weekends, writing so many citations and violations around the clock that Goober and Gomer, Howard and Thelma Lou, Floyd and Aunt Bee were afraid to say anything out of fear over retaliation!? The new Council calls off the Town Attack Dogs, and takes the first few steps to pull Fort Myers Beach out of its current “Government Heavy” philosophy back to a “Government Lite” community, where ‘No Harm, No Foul’ once again rules the day.
I am giving myself a split-decision on this one. While Code Enforcement does not seem like a group of barroom bouncers anymore, they are certainly not quite yet Andy & Barney! 3.5 to 4.5, for whatever the heck percentage that equals!
- Economic Apocalypse:
Water quality issues, headlined by Blue-Green Algae and Red Tide, return again in 2019 with a vengeance, bringing another year of economic disaster for beach businesses. When the downturn returns in 2019, several well-known Beach establishments sadly and frustratingly fold.
While I could argue that 2019 was not a great FMB financial year, with many businesses quietly calling the past 12 months “A Hangover,” as many visitors skipped us this year due to 2018’s lousy water, it was not an apocalypse, so I am THRILLED to declare this a loss! Although a few high profile businesses left us, like Castaways and The Shark Bar, it certainly was not with a vengeance or through an economic or environmental disaster. 3.5 Up, 5.5 Down, and that is an even harder percentage to figure out.
- Water Water Everywhere – Once More!
When I first began doing these predictions in 2017, water quality was #3 on my initial list. In 2018, it jumped to #2 and I made an early prognostication it would rise to #1 in 2019 – and here it is!
While we did not suffer any major hurricanes, Blue-Green Algae mostly stayed away, Red Tide so far seems no worse than an average year, and there was no water calamity, I declare this one a winner for Gary!
That is because the region hosted more water quality seminars and forums than you can shake a water measuring stick at, water basically assured the election of Governor Ron DeSantis, who fired all 7 members of the South Florida Water Management District Board and replaced them with environmentalists and water advocates, the Governor requested $250 million in water quality projects and the Legislature allocated even more, the United States Army Corps of Engineers modified the Lake Okeechobee Release Schedule, C-43 Reservoir construction began, Florida Gulf Coast University announced its Water School, Governor DeSantis formed the Blue-Green Algae Task Force with one member being FGCU’s Dr. Mike Parsons, and the Mound House began the FMB “What’s In The Water” testing program, among many more initiatives. Our citizens know more than ever that clean water means better business, increased property values, more jobs, enhanced health and a better Quality of Life.
That final win brought me up to 4.5 to the Good versus 5.5 Down for a 45% success ratio; so a step down from last year’s 55%. Tune in to next week’s edition of The Island Sand Paper to see me utilize my 20/20 vision on my 2020 predictions!