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!

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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.

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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.

Posted in Community

Naples Friends

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Connect with your community, meet great people! There is no need ever to feel lonely in Naples Fl, there are plenty of clubs, group activities and events to connect all our wonderful people.

From doing good for the community by attending a charity event, to participating in church or sports events there is always something to do.

For more information on the local events grab our free newspaper – Naples Florida Weekly, or go online http://naples.floridaweekly.com/. Another good place to find the local events and groups is through meetup website: https://www.meetup.com/cities/us/fl/naples/.

NaplesGirls

 

Posted in Community

Collier County Commissioner Bill McDaniel Answers My Questions

Bill McDaniel was very kind to meet with me and answer few questions, below is a brief recap of our conversation.

MCDANIEL 1. Does collier county “live within its budget”? How important is it to have a balanced budget?

It is important that we live within our means. I believe in government of the people, by the people, and for the people. The apathy of the voters allowed special interests to take control and government became “not for the people” as much. Local government has responsibilities: keep the community safe, provide infrastructure/roads, provide quality of life/recreation. Collier County lives within its means, but perhaps we overspend on extraneous priorities. 

2. What is your position on the off shore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico?

From the standpoint of global economics, we are a petroleum based industrial society. In the future, perhaps in the next 50 years, the informational age will take over with its clean energy and new technology.  However, it is not sustainable today.  Oil, natural gas, and coal are important resources now. That said, I’d rather not see the off shore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, it is harder to fix problems when we extract oil from under the water.  We can manage these regulations in favor of more onshore oil and gas extraction. 

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

Humans are the dominant species of the planet.  It is our duty and obligation to protect the environment, but not at all costs. How important is it to protect the environment – very important! Water is the substance of all life. We are doing a good job; collier county residents have clean and up-to-standards water. 

4. What is your position on the big farm polluters and the ensuing red tide problem?

We had a noticeable red tide problem last year due to few months of unprecedented rainfall (19 inches).  It caused the fertilizer from the land to drain into the water. The problem was not so much the farms; although, we do need to take care of the quality of water up north that drains into the Kissimmee River which feeds into Lake Okeechobee. We also need to build the reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to curb discharges in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers.

5. What do you do to create more jobs in Collier County?

We make Immokalee the economic epicenter, expand the airport in Immokalee  and build the necessary infrastructure. We also need to connect SR 29 with SR 80.  We want to move away from relying on natural resources to relying on our greatest resources – our people. With a good education our people can manufacture goods and services right here in Collier County and with good infrastructure we can ship our products everywhere else. We must stimulate non-construction related industry.

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

Government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Lately, the government hasn’t been for the people. We need to reduce regulations to help small businesses.

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

There is always affordable housing available, but a lot of times people just don’t want to live in that location. We want quality wine on a beer budget. It just doesn’t work that way. Government should not be in the business of subsidizing the affordable housing. What we can do is to reduce regulations and the expenses to the developers and builders so they can make housing less expensive  and more affordable to the residents.

8.  How do we keep our taxes low?

We will be able to maintain our very low tax rate, if we adjust our priorities to those outlined in #1.

9.  How do we reduce crime in Collier County?

The sheriff is doing a good job. The crime rate in collier county is down.

Bill McDaniel was very helpful and he definitely has my vote!

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Posted in Community

Meet the Neighbors: Dr. Tony Barringer

tbarringMy friend, Dr. Tony A. Barringer, was kind enough to grant me the interview for my blog.

Question:  Tony, is formal education important to succeed in life?

I would say that it definitely increases the likelihood for success especially if we’re referencing monetary success. The formal education allows one to get into the game when certain qualifying credentials are needed. It definitely allowed me an opportunity to escape the woes of the Southside of Chicago.

Question: What is your educational background?

I have a BS in Criminal Justice, a Master’s in Public Administration and a Doctorate in Criminology.

Question: What is the biggest challenge you faced in your career?

My biggest challenge is continuing to do the right thing when that might not be the most popular decision. I have vowed to not let any job cause me to compromise the core principle by which I live. To me, at the end of the day, all you have is your name and what you stand/stood for.

Question: What advice would you give to young people trying to decide in what area to specialize professionally?

I would always advise a person to follow his/her passion. Choose a career that excites you about doing it every day. The ideal job would be something that you would do even if you were not compensated/paid. I’m more driven by the passion to assist and help than I am about great fortune and wealth. Having said this, I feel that no one should be afraid to achieve and sell him or herself short out of fear of failing.

Question: Is it important to follow one’s dream even if financially it may not be feasible, or if there was no income potential?

This reply would be very similar to my response to previous question.   Enjoying what you do is invaluable. As long as you are honest with yourself about why you chose a certain career and you can live with that decision, it’s all good.

Question: Are you following local politics? Do you vote in the local elections?

To a point. I realize that local politics are the same issues that are on the national scene; just a smaller scale. For numerous reasons, I do not vote in local elections. That being the case, I am careful not to complain about the results. To me, that would be hypocritical.

Question: Can you think of one important issue Lee County is facing right now?

Law enforcement and Community relations. There appears to be a major issue with the minority community not trusting the “system”. This is heavily tied into the second major issue of racism and race relations. We definitely need dialogue in this arena.

Posted in Community

Commissioner Answers My Questions

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Penny Taylor was very kind to meet with me and answer few questions, below is a brief recap of our conversation.

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

It is important to have a balanced budget. Collier County government does a good job budgeting for the year. With property values rising for the fifth straight year and the county’s tax base increasing it is a good time to take care of the backlog of repairs that were not addressed during the recession starting in 2007. We must keep in mind, our population is growing and the taxpayer expects our level of service to be maintained.

2. What is your position on the off shore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico?

I don’t support it. Accidents do happen.

3. How important to you is to protect our environment? Now there are more harmful chemicals allowed in the drinking water.

Environment is very important. People come to Collier County for the clean beaches and clean air. We have to protect the environment and we must develop with that in mind.

4. What is your position on the big farm polluters and the ensuing red tide problem?

If you look at the data you will see the sugar industry’s discharge is better south of Lake Okeechobee than what comes into the lake.  The sugar producers figured out how to clean the water. Now, north of Lake Okeechobee we have the cattle farming industry, and Florida is the second largest cattle producer in the United States. The pollution that comes from the cattle industry is a problem. The solution is to clean the water coming into Lake Okeechobee and from the North, as well as cleaning the water as it exits from Lake Okeechobee.  Everglades restoration needs the cleanest water possible.

5. What do you do to create more jobs in Collier County?

We need to bring 21st century manufacturing and technical jobs to Collier County.  I support Governor Rick Scott’s initiative for job creation.  We have to diversify our economy.  We cannot depend solely on tourism.

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

Small business will benefit through  a review and possible adjustment of specific regulations.  Regulations are important, though.  State and local incentives help small businesses.

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

We were just discussing the issue of affordable housing last week. Taxpayers, developers, and the County must come together to solve this problem.  Not one entity should shoulder it alone.  One solution can be to have land already zoned.  This makes it easier for the developers.

8. How do we keep our taxes low?

We have done it.  We went through a recession and our taxes were not raised.  In the future, we will probably have a tax increase to address the many challenges we are facing today.  For example, infrastructure building and storm water management are high on the list of priorities.

9. How do we reduce crime in Collier County?

Our Sheriff does a good job in Collier County patrolling the neighborhoods through neighborhood policing.  However, there is a problem with prescription drug abuse that needs to be tackled through education and law enforcement.

Penny Taylor was very helpful and she definitely has my vote!

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Posted in Community

Meet the Neighbors: Art Petrosian

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Let’s meet all the great people in our community! My friend Art was gracious enough to give me this interview.

Question: Art, please tell me about your educational background.

Art: PhD in physics from Princeton University.

Question: In what industry do you work here in Naples?

Art: Aerospace and defense.

Question: Which company and what is your title?

Art: Cobham Aerospace Communications. I’m a director of Engineering.

Question: You are a busy guy, do you have time for friendships?

Art: Any successful manager has the ability to designate time for his personal life. Some choose to do that, others choose not to do it.

Question: What is a restaurant or a location in Naples that you visit most often?

Art: I prefer locally owned and operated establishments. A good example would be Capriccio restaurant in Naples.

Question: Did you vote in the last presidential election?

Art: Absolutely not. It would be an insult to my intelligence.

Question: Have you voted in the local elections?

Art: Yes, I did.

Question: What is the biggest problem facing Collier County right now?

Art: I can think of one – corruption.

Question: Can you give me an example?

Art: The misuse of publicly trusted power in operation of Naples Municipal Airport. I’m an active pilot, I can estimate the expected altitude for the initial or final approach. Flight plans of visiting airplanes are being purposely diverted for the convenience of wealthy people. For the last 18 years there has been no consideration for adjustment of operation of Naples Municipal Airport to benefit Collier County and Naples residents. The airport maintenance is still 100% financed by the residents of Collier County and not the wealthy visitors. The Collier County officials are sworn to serve our residents disregarding the income level.

Question: What is the biggest challenge in your career?

Art: There is absolutely no mistakes allowed in my business. If a doctor makes a mistake one person may suffer, if we make a mistake many people will be affected.

Question: Do you volunteer in the community?

Art: Yes, Florida International College and Lorenzo Walker Technical College.