Posted in Community

My Questions for Collier County Sheriff’s Office

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Karie Partington, Media Relations Manager with Collier County Sheriff’s Office, was very kind to answer few questions for my blog.

Question:  Lee and Collier Counties are neighbors, yet Collier County crime rate is much lower. Why Collier County has such a low crime rate?

We can’t speak to a comparison between our county and Lee County because each county is unique. However, we can tell you that Sheriff Kevin Rambosk believes that the safest jurisdictions are those in which law enforcement and the community work closely together. Because of his philosophy our deputies are very involved in the community and in return our community is very involved with us. We work with businesses, civic organizations, homeowner associations and individuals to help keep Collier County safe. During the summer we keep the youth of Collier County involved in free and fun activities that we organize with the help of community partners. These activities range from fishing to a build-a-chair program to basketball and much more.

Question: In 2000 Collier County had 3,871 crimes, in 2005 Collier County had 2,403 crimes, in 2010 Collier County had 2,016 crimes, in 2014 Collier County had 1,763 crimes, in 2016 Collier County had 1,540 crimes. As a matter of fact, the crime rate in many U.S. cities and counties is declining, what do you think is the reason for the general crime rate decline?

Law enforcement leaders, sociologists, economists, and political scientists have studied this phenomenon, but there’s no real consensus about what caused this shifting national trend. Locally, we closely monitor crime trends and we work together and with our community and our fellow public safety partners to both prevent crime and put an end to criminal activity. For the past several years Collier County has been the safest metropolitan county in the state, according to statistics by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Question: How does Collier County fight opioid addiction problem?

Our deputies investigate all reports of drug activity with the goal of taking drug dealers off the streets. In addition, we work to connect those who are addicted to drugs with the resources they need to recover. Also, we are currently working with hospitals and EMS to identify where overdoses are originating in the community, which will allow us to target our resources as effectively as possible. It is important to note that CCSO, Drug Free Collier and other community partners created a Heroin Task Force in 2015 to address the problem of heroin and other opioids in the community.

Question: Do we incarcerate more people, and is it a good solution?

Actually, our jail population has been trending downward for several years. The current jail population in Collier County is about 800 inmates. We believe there are many reasons for this decrease.  In addition to the lower crime levels referenced in Question 2 above, we have incorporated an array of programs dedicated to helping inmates succeed and avoid re-arrest when they return to the community. We offer inmates a G.E.D. program, a culinary arts program, and a cell dog program, all aimed at increasing self-esteem and giving inmates marketable skills that they can use to find employment when they return to the community. In addition, our jail staff works with inmates before they are released to develop a release plan and a list of community resources that are available to them. We also partner with NAMI to provide our deputies with Crisis Intervention Team training, which helps them de-escalate situations they encounter in the community. This training also helps Patrol deputies identify individuals who are need of mental health or substance abuse treatment and get them to the resources they need instead of arresting them.

Question: Naples, FL is smaller and quieter than Miami or New York City, do we have gang problems?

Criminal street gangs can form anywhere. We believe that prevention is the first line of defense against gangs. Our Youth Relations Bureau members mentor children in our schools. They also teach the D.A.R.E. curriculum to help them learn how to make positive decisions and avoid peer pressure. Those relationships between Youth Relations Bureau deputies and students continue through the summer months through our Summerfest program. Because no community is totally immune from gangs we have a gang unit aimed at identifying and disrupting street gang activity. Gang unit members monitor criminal street gangs and identify, document and remove gang graffiti in partnership with Collier County Code Enforcement. We also partner with local tattoo parlors who are willing to remove gang tattoos from former gang members who are working to reform their lives.

Question: What is the most troublesome neighborhood in Collier County?

We don’t have areas that we would label as “troublesome.” Every neighborhood is unique, and our deputies work at a neighborhood level to keep each area of Collier County safe.  We also have a crime map function on our website, www.colliersheriff.org. Members of the community can search their neighborhood to identify any criminal activity as well as sexual offenders living in the area. We provide the maps as a service so that residents and visitors can obtain the information they need to stay safe.

Question: We don’t use red light cameras in Collier County. I feel people are more confident now running a red light. Do you think red light cameras was a good idea?

Law enforcement does not make the decision as to whether communities have red light cameras. This is a decision that local governments make.  Our Safety & Traffic Enforcement Bureau as well as our Patrol deputies develop and execute traffic safety operations aimed at keeping motorists safe and curbing traffic violations including red-light running. We also offer the ZOOM Traffic Hotline, which is 239.530.ZOOM (9666), where people can report traffic problem locations that are not in-progress. Deputies incorporate these problem areas into their traffic safety operation plans. For in-progress traffic infractions that pose an immediate risk to public safety it is best to call 911.

Posted in Community

My Conversation with David Lawrence Center CEO Scott Burgess

profile pic Dec 2013 3
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Scott Burgess, CEO of the David Lawrence Center, Naples, Florida was very kind to answer few questions for us via email.

Question:  Scott, you are a hardworking and talented man, what made you take that job with the David Lawrence Center in Naples?

I had been at my previous organization for almost 22 years and had, quite literally, just been talking with my wife about her thoughts associated with considering new doors opening, if they presented themselves, when I was outreached by a recruiter associated with DLC’s search.  Neither she nor I had felt a ‘stirring’ related to a potential change before this and I had not interviewed in decades.  We prayed about the potential and believed, if it was meant to be, all things would fall perfectly into place and they did.  In the interviewing process, I met with the incredible DLC Board of Directors and staff and I could easily see DLC is a very special place!  Then, I came to realize the great and growing needs in the Collier community and Florida at large and felt, this is a place I can try to make a significant impact.

Question: How many “hospital beds” does David Lawrence Center have? 

We have 3 emergency assessment center beds, 30 inpatient treatment beds for mental health (separate units for children and adults), 15 beds on our detoxification unit and 18 beds in our substance use disorder residential rehabilitation unit.  So that totals 66 on campus.  We also sponsor some long-term, affordable, supported housing for those in need, that is another 24 beds.

Question: In which cases simply seeing a doctor at the David Lawrence Center doesn’t help and the patient has to be hospitalized?

Inpatient care is always the last option and is only used when an individual is considered an imminent danger to self or others.  In rare cases inpatient care is required when an individual’s symptoms are so severe they can’t take care of themselves well enough to guard from serious harm.  Other than these situations, which is the vast majority of the time, we care for individuals in an outpatient and/or community-based setting.

Question: What can we do to increase the number of hospital beds at the David Lawrence Center?

Given Florida ranks 49th in funding for state spending on mental health issues, second worst in the Country, it is clear we will need to address this as a local need with a local response.  For almost 50 years DLC has partnered with amazing donors, local government and community leaders to continue building to meet the needs of the Collier community.  We are most hopeful we can work with incredible members of our community to continue to do so as we move forward as well.  It truly does ‘take a village!’

Question: What are the challenges the David Lawrence Center faces today?

With growing awareness of the seriousness of both mental illness and addictions challenges and the growing Collier populations, we are seeing a significant growth in need for care.  In fact, just 5 years ago we provided 147,000 services across our three sites and programs, fast forward to the fiscal year that just ended June 30, 2017, we provided 228,000 services.  Our biggest challenges are associated with having enough financial resources to grow to keep up with demand and ensure access to care for all in need.

Question: How do you think our community, Collier county, will change say in 5 years, 10 years?

From everything that I have seen in forecasting materials, all concur that Collier will continue to grow in population, maybe another 100,000 residents in the next 10-15 years.  That is a continuation of significant growth already seen across the last 10-15 years!  As a County we need to ensure we are attending to both the physical infrastructure growth needs (roads, water, sewer, etc.) and we need to ensure we are attending to the human infrastructure needs (schools and essential services-such as healthcare, including mental healthcare).  I believe Collier County is up to the task!  There are many highly dedicated, extremely bright and passionate members in our community already working on planning for this coming growth.

I really believe another area also needing focused attention, concrete planning and active mobilization is affordable housing in Collier.  This is a major challenge for many and our community needs to tackle this matter to assure all who work in Collier have an opportunity to live in Collier.

Questions: What should we do to better prepare for the changes ahead?

Continue with the various planning groups and develop associated strategies.  I am excited to see many such active planning groups and I’m humbled to be participating in several of them working in partnership with incredibly talented individuals truly committed to ensuring Collier is the best place, to live, work and play.  Examples include: Sheriff Rambosk and Superintendent Patton’s active leadership in many leading-edge initiatives, the Board of County Commissioners just having the first ever public workshop on mental health and addictions challenges in our community, the Chamber of Commerce having many initiatives they are active in advancing, the Blue Zones Project, etc.  Preparation takes planning, prioritization, diligence and commitment; I see this all being fostered in Collier.

Posted in Community

My Conversation with Fr. Christian Maxfield, Associate Rector of St John’s Episcopal Church

Fr. Christian Maxfield, Associate Rector of St John_s Episcopal Church, Naples, FL
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Question:  Father Christian, you are the Associate Rector at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Naples, Fl. How did your spiritual journey begin?

My spiritual journey began very early in life. Raised in a Christian family for whom being part of a church community was a priority, I was involved in the life of the church my whole life.  This close relationship with the Church- and more specifically with God- led me to take leadership roles in the church, starting within my own high school youth group.  This then led me to attend a Christian college where I earned an undergraduate degree majoring in Youth Ministry and Adolescent Studies, which led me on to study for and receive a Masters of Divinity degree at Nashotah House Theological Seminary.  Now ten years out of seminary, my wife and I have continued to follow the Lord where He has led as we have served the church in three different states and four parishes. I have been an Assistant Priest, a Rector, a Priest-in-charge, and I currently serve as an Associate Rector.

Question: I noticed you have tattoos on your arms, what is the story behind them?

I have always been an admirer of art, once again stemming from my childhood and going to the art museum on a regular basis. I consider my tattoos an artistic way that I remind myself, as well as others, who I am as a person and specifically that I am not my own, but rather that I was bought at a price and I am the Lord God’s possession by virtue of my belief and baptism in Him in whom I life, move and have my being.  The tattoos I have on my body each share a little about who I am in Christ and who I know God to be.  Just as any good art creates conversation, so do my tattoos; and when people ask me about them I have the opportunity to talk about my faith in God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and my Redeemer, who endured great suffering on my behalf and in whom I have been crucified that He may live in me (Galatians 2:20).

Question: Did you vote in the last elections? Do you follow politics at all?

I did vote and no, I really do not follow politics. Yet I continue to pray for our president, our governor, our mayor and all who are in leadership in our nation and in all nations – that they would know Christ in their own lives, that they would chose to lead as Christ did with a humble servant’s heart, walking in the light of the Lord.

Question: During our conversation you said something that impressed me very much – our relationship with God is like any other relationship. The more we work on it, the better it gets. Could you expand on that a little more?

Scripture says, “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers of rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him” (Colossians 1:16). We were created to be in relationship with God – think back to the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve walked with God. Just as we humans were built to be in relationship with one another, so we were also built to be in relationship with our God. Just like a relationship with another person grows and thrives with loving effort and sacrifice, our relationship with God is able to grow and thrive when we make the effort and when we center our lives around Him. Likewise, the opposite happens if we neglect our relationships.

Question: Finding true love and dating is hard these days. What is your position on dating and marriage?

To be blunt, I believe our culture has tricked us into believing that it is fine to put the cart before the horse in many ways of living, including dating. We live in a world obsessed with instant gratification, which pressures us to think that we need to find love and companionship, or even just mere satisfaction, RIGHT NOW. Unfortunately this means that many people are living in such a way that they rush into relationships which they might not otherwise choose if they took the time to stop and pray and ask the Lord to reveal to them if this is truly the right path for them, taking the take the time to seek the wisdom and leading of the One who alone truly brings wholeness to our lives and who hears our heart’s desires.  When we take matters into our own hands- aside from God and His perfect way- pain, suffering and heartbreak often ensues. Therefore, I would be a proponent of the ‘old way’ of dating, taking time to actually date someone, getting to know someone through a number of social activities without opening up oneself to marital behaviors and characteristics until one is actually married and fully committed to spending ones life with the other person until, as our marriage vows say, we are “parted by death”.

Question: Would you end this article with an inspirational teaching and a challenge to our brains :), so what lesson will we learn with you today?

What is reality???? I have always loved movies, and going to see my favorite stories and actors on the big screen has always been a thrill. Yet this last time I went, something occurred within me of which I was not aware until some time later.

A month ago my wife and I went to see a movie in the theater. It was a good movie and we were looking forward to seeing it as it fits into a genre that we both enjoy. After leaving the movie I found myself feeling a bit uneasy, but simply believed it to be what I call the ‘movie magic brain meld’ which overcomes movie-goers after spending 2+ hours being mesmerized by an action-packed, fast-moving, emotionally-charged storyline.

It has been said that the eyes are a window into the soul, and I now believe likewise that when I watched this fictional film, it opened a door within me which allowed the evil one to plant seeds of false reality within my heart and soul, which only made it easier to listen to his lies in my life. Because of this, I was walking around dazed and confused, still getting on with the things I had to do: work, family, life, etc., yet doing so with an anxiety-ridden and depressing false reality tapping on my shoulder.

Upon watching another movie recently, which I would characterize as being in the genre of Christian faith, my heart and soul were overwhelmed by what is real and true: God’s Love for us and the blessings that come upon us every day from our choice to follow Him by letting Him into our lives to transform, heal and lead us in every way possible. This is what is real. In some sense, after the first movie I watched, I lost my sense of reality; and the second movie brought me back to reality. This to me is a reminder of what I already know but tend to forget, that we must be careful in what we watch, hear and do because the evil one will look for any way to lead us astray and thus gain some measure of control within our lives no matter how trivial or innocent it seems. Let us all be as innocent as doves and as wise as serpents as we make choices about what we- and those in our care- see and participate in day to day, that we would live with an upright and accurate sense of reality- that there is a God who loves us unconditionally and who made the ultimate sacrifice for us. If only we would actively choose to walk with Him, living in the reality of HIS Kingdom!

Posted in Community

4th of July Celebration in Naples, FL

IMG_0049Independence Day, also referred to as 4th of July, is a federal holiday in U.S. On July 4, 1776 the continental congress declared thirteen American colonies (Province of New Hampshire, Province of Massachusetts Bay, Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut Colony, Province of New York, Province of New Jersey, Province of Pennsylvania, Delaware Colony, Province of Maryland, Colony of Virginia, Province of North Carolina, Province of South Carolina, and Province of Georgia) a new nation, the United States of America, and no longer a part of British Empire. IMG_0034

Naples’ annual Parade, begins at 10am on the corner of Broad and 3rd Street South. Floats, marching bands, and all kinds of groups show their patriotism as they make their way along the traditional parade route, down 3rd to 5th Avenue South and then on to 8th Street South.

If you are visiting or a resident, but have never seen the 4th of July parade in Naples, I recommend attending. The crowd size is not bad and people are very nice. It feels like one big family gathering. Come prepared for our abundant mosquitoes and bugs at this time of year, they seem to develop a resistance to all bug repellents!

IMG_0060Another 4th of July Naples tradition is the annual firework display from the Naples Pier. The fireworks fire off from a barge approximately 1,000 feet north of the Naples Pier at about 9pm. The presentation features a 25 minute display with special effects musically choreographed to patriotic selections which is broadcasted on radio station WAVV 101.1 FM. The best place to see the fireworks is on the beach as close to Naples Pier as possible. It does get crowded. Few years ago I watched the fireworks from Naples Beach Hotel and Golf club, it was very comfortable, but too far from all the action. Get out there, explore and have fun!

Posted in Community

My Conversation with Dr. Weiss, the president and CEO of the NCH Healthcare

Dr. Weiss, the president and CEO of the NCH Healthcare, was very kind to speak with me on the phone and answer few questions. Below is a brief recap of our conversation. Dr. Weiss

Question: Being a president and CEO of the NCH Healthcare system sounds like an overwhelming job, what made you go for it?

I spent 23 years in private practice, last 17 years in administration. I made transition to administration in 2000. I had to learn the business side of the healthcare system. I spent 6 years as president, 11 years as CEO and president. I went for the job because it was an inspiration. I wanted the opportunity to make a difference. It is a serious job, it has challenges, but I love it. I think we are making progress.

Question: What are the challenges facing NCH Healthcare system today and how are they different from the challenges 5-10 years ago?

We are facing huge uncertainty from Washington and Tallahassee. We try to provide high quality care to everyone.  5 years ago, our situation was more stable. Today state and federal government are running out of money. Health care costs 18 % of GDP and it is growing.

Question: NCH Healthcare system is one of the largest job creators in our community. How can we make sure it continues to be so?

We do employ a great number of people, using 2015 numbers, we employ 4,300 folks working with us either full- or part-time, seasonally or year-round. Indirectly, we have created 13,275 additional jobs because we buy services and supplies from others. Of course, school system is number one employer in the county. We have a goal – keep our community healthy. Competent and compassionate healthcare, while providing peace of mind to a community, adds economic benefit and other “non-traditional” contributions and liaisons.

Question: What our politicians need to do to make health care more affordable?

We should not exploit sickness to make a profit. Health insurance is a big business. 20% of person’s monthly health insurance premium goes to  the insurance company to cover operating costs and generate profit. That is a lot of money. But they are not the only ones who benefit. Think tobacco industry. How much money did the tobacco industry make and how many people did it make sick? We are all paying for it. We could take care of our national debt if we didn’t have to pay for all the sick people numerous big businesses create. What politicians can do is to make it harder for businesses to make money if the product they sell makes the public sick. We should spend more money on prevention. Big companies, big pharma have lobbyists and their interests are very well protected. We need to push our politicians to do the work on our behalf, work for our vote.

Question: What do you think about the universal care?

An efficient single payer focused on prevention takes a big insurance business out of the equation. It is a step towards stopping the businesses from making money out of sickness. We need to focus on prevention, keep our population healthy in the first place.

Posted in Community

My Conversation with Commissioner Andy Solis

Andy Solis was very kind to meet with me and answer few questions, below is a brief recap of our conversation. I learned a lot! AndySolis

Question: Does collier county “live within its budget”? How important is it to have a balanced budget?

Collier County lives within its budget. It is very important and we are conservative in our spending. We fully paid our debt during the recession years of 2007-2008. Of course, debt is necessary to fund our many important projects and we pay it as we go.

Question: What is your position on the off shore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico?

I do not support the off shore drilling. We don’t need it at this point. There are plenty of alternatives and better ways to extract oil.

Question: How important to you is to protect our environment? There are more harmful chemicals allowed in the drinking water.

It is very important to protect our environment. Our beautiful beaches and nature bring tourism to Collier County. The quality of Collier County’s tap water is very good. In fact, we won several prizes for best tasting water in the state.

Question: What is your position on the big farm polluters and the ensuing red tide problem?

We have to address Lake Okeechobee problem; we waited too long. We need to protect our biggest asset- the water, the beaches. We are building the reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to address that problem.

Question: What do you do to create more jobs in Collier County?

We have several business accelerator programs in Naples. The Naples Accelerator headed by director Dr. Marshall Goodman provides small businesses with mentorship from industry leaders, networking opportunities, access to investors and sales leads. The Naples Accelerator also provides small businesses with offices and conference rooms. Many European businesses migrated to Naples with the help of Naples Accelerator.

We also have Collier County Culinary Accelerator. Christian Le Squer, a Michelin-rated chef who runs Le Cinq restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris, has agreed to work with the Immokalee Culinary Accelerator to help our chefs and to raise money.

 Question: If the small businesses are the largest job creators how do we protect and encourage small business growth?

We need to create a business friendly environment in Collier County. For example, make permitting easier and less expensive.

Question: The rent keeps getting higher, the salaries are not keeping up. How do we insure affordable housing for the workers in Collier County?

The problem of housing affordability can be solved by making it more profitable for landowners and builders to develop multi-apartment housing vs. single-family luxury homes. We need to address density issue- how many housing units are allowed to be built on a certain property.

 Question:  How do we reduce crime in Collier County?

The crime rate in Collier County is very low, and it keeps decreasing despite our fast growth. The major problem we are facing today is the opioid addiction. We have educational programs in place and I am actively involved with the program to help people get the necessary information and support to fight the opioid addiction.

Andy Solis was very helpful and he definitely has my vote!

districts

Posted in Community

Interview with Naples Mayor Bill Barnett

Bill Barnett, the mayor of City of Naples, FL was very kind to meet with me and answer few questions, below is a brief recap of our conversation. BillBarnett

But first, a lesson in politics. The City of Naples occupies about 16.4 sq. mi and has population of 20,000 full time residents. The larger Naples Metro Area is managed by county commissioners.

The City of Naples was incorporated in 1925.  An incorporated town in the United States is a municipality and has elected officials, as differentiated from an unincorporated community, which is governed by the county or state.

In the council-manager form of government, the city council is the governing body elected by the citizens.

city-of-Naples

The council hires a city manager to serve as the chief executive of the city government. With some exceptions that vary from city to city, the city manager oversees all city staff. The city manager advises the council on their decisions but has no formal authority to vote on laws enacted by the council.

Now back to my conversation with Bill Barnett.

Question: Naples is a great place to live. It is clean, safe and we have good schools. How do we make sure our quality of life does not deteriorate?

I lived in Naples for 44 years. I have been in politics for 25 years, and I can tell you we have a system in place to insure our city is exactly what we, the residents, want it to be: no bill boards, no big advertisements. We want to have a lot of green space and good zoning. The mayor and 6 council members work hard to protect our quality of life.

Question: Is it important to attract big businesses and more people to Naples, or do we want to remain a small town?

We can attract corporate headquarters to Greater Naples Metro Area, and it would be a good thing for the community. It will not happen in the city of Naples, we just don’t have the space anymore.

Question: Bill, you were elected mayor of Naples in 1996 to 2000 and again from 2004 to 2012, and again in 2016. What are the challenges facing Naples today and how are they different from challenges we faced in 1996, 2004, 2008, 2016?

The biggest challenge we face today is our tremendous growth. Collier county is being built too fast. The growth is the challenge, we don’t build the beaches, we build housing, yet people want to come here to enjoy the beach and the nature. Another problem we face – how can we efficiently manage the increasing traffic?

Question: What is your vision for Naples, what do you want Naples to be, let’s say, in 10 years from now?

In 10 years, I want to see Naples very much like it is today. In the future, with advanced technology we will be able to manage traffic better. Our residents will reuse water, so we will conserve drinking water. The old houses eventually will be replaced with new energy efficient homes. We are moving in that direction.

Question: Have you ever considered running for a Governor of Florida post?

No. I never considered it. Why should I? I like to be a local politician. I know people in Naples and people know me. I like what I am doing. I like where I am and most importantly I like our people.