Letters to the editor for Sunday, August 7, 2022

·17 min read
Editorial cartoon
Editorial cartoon
Editorial cartoon
Editorial cartoon

Commit to culture of excellence in schools

Nothing is more important to the future of Lee County than a high performing public school system. Achieving this is really hard. Many children present to the system unprepared. Poverty, broken homes, lack of parental support and on. No matter how poorly prepared a child may be, the public school system takes them all. How to bring them to grade level and ultimately to graduate, able to make their way in the world, is the challenge of a lifetime.

There are no easy answers. At the classroom level it takes dedicated and passionate educators. At the administrative level it takes managerial skills as well as expertise in educational systems and solutions. High performing employees will only be the rule -- not the exception -- if there is a high functioning board.

A school board member should have a commitment to creating a culture of excellence. This should inform all they do. They must know how to put together a strategic plan that embodies excellence -- empowering employees to execute their responsibilities and be held accountable for making excellence a reality. This will take time and is also very hard.

Our school system is a $2 billion enterprise with thousands of employees and 100,00 kids counting on all the aforementioned to prepare them for life. Voters should do their best to choose board members with management experience in large and complex organizations. Simply caring about kids and the single issues of the day without the skills and experience to create a culture that will make a difference in student achievement is not enough.

Jim Moore, Fort Myers

Defense of Florida Citizens Alliance

The recent letter claiming Florida Citizens Alliance is a radical group fighting against what is best for our kids is laughable. Florida Citizens Alliance now represents well over 30,000 parents and grandparents here in Collier and almost 200,000 statewide. Our principles and core values are based on the U.S. Constitution and our Judeo-Christian founding. If the U.S. Constitution makes us radical to some on “the left” then it is a mantle we wear proudly.

As for our claiming we endorsed candidates in 2016 or now, this is just not true. We are a 501c3 non-for profit and do not endorse candidates. Any candidates who align with our core constitutional values make that decision on their own.

As for challenging Collier County Public Schools on its poor performance, we certainly do in hopes that they get back to academic basics of Reading, Math and Constitutional-based Civics.

Instead 40 percent of CCPS high school students cannot read or do math at grade level (Source: 2021 US News and World Report Annual study).

Over two-thirds of CCPS 3rd graders cannot read at proficiently level 4 or 5 (Source: FL DOE).

The CCPS school board is allowing extensive sexually explicit and age-inappropriate LGBTQ materials in their schools (Source: CCPS Public Records Request – a self-admission to legal Firm of Pacific Justice Institute).

The CCPS School Board allowed Superintendent Patton in 2021 to train the entire CCPS administrative and principals staff on Critical Race Theory (CRT), purchasing and distributing 400 copies of “Unconscious Bias in Schools” ( Source: Self admission reply to Public Records Request)

Collier public school students deserve better!

Keith Flaugh Collier resident and founder FLCA, Marco Island

Separation of church, state at risk

The line separating church and state was seriously blurred by the recent Supreme Court decision that made it OK for a public high school football coach to hold an impromptu (Christian) prayer meeting on the school field following a game. It’s very hard for me to believe that the decision would have been the same if the coach had been something other than Christian. The thought that a majority of the current Supreme Court justices have an “agenda” is chilling.

The decision also brought back some vivid memories of my public elementary school experience in the late 1940s-early '50s. As the only Jewish kid in the class, I dutifully sat there in assemblies and sang “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” “Jesus Loves Me” and others from the Christian Greatest Hits list. I knew there was something wrong with that, but it wasn’t until many years later that enough non-Christian parents made enough noise that the practice was halted. This recent Supreme Court decision takes a giant step back toward those days.  I assume that those who now call themselves “Christian Nationalists” are overjoyed by it. Their idea of “religious freedom” is that that they have the freedom to impose their religion on everyone else.

For what it’s worth, I was raised under the same set of rules as Jesus. And it is my understanding that he preached that we should live our lives practicing inclusion, tolerance and love. I like to think I’ve lived my life a lot closer to those tenets than these “Christian Nationalists” who have co-opted Jesus’ message and are fomenting exclusion, intolerance and hate.

Jay Light, Fort Myers Beach

Deny zoning change for Eden Oak

Recently a couple of terrific letters were published concerning the deleterious effect of the proposed Eden Oak development. The main environmental issues are wetland loss, declining water quality, the potential threat to endangered species from mangrove destruction and dredging, and the loss of defense from storms. Each one of these issues alone should prohibit this proposed development, yet there is still the possibility for it to happen. I would like to add a further point of objection to this proposed development, and that is the impact on our infrastructure and potential problems with hurricane evacuation. The current neighborhood was originally developed in the late '60s-early '70s, so the addition of 55 homes would be significant. Furthermore there is only one two-lane road for traffic going in/out, so additional homes with additional cars would certainly slow down what is an already dangerously difficult hurricane evacuation.

The Eden Oak project asked for a rezoning of 300+ acres from Agricultural to Residential. It has taken at least eight years, possibly more, for this Rezoning to finally reach the review stage with the Lee County Hearing Examiner on July 12, 2022, due to many, many delays on the part of Eden Oak. We, the public, had our time to make ourselves heard during the allotted period we were given. We are now prohibited from contacting the hearing examiner or Lee County commissioners about Eden Oak while this review process is underway. Our only recourse is to make ourselves heard through the media. For this reason I write to express my hope that the hearing examiner and then the Lee County commissioners follow the advice of their staff in their recommendation to deny the zoning change for Eden Oak.

Mary Tracy Sigman, Fort Myers

Shortage of teachers in Florida

I recently sent a letter to Gov. DeSantis regarding his latest proposal for addressing the shortage of teachers in Florida.

I am a teacher who recently moved to Naples. I applied to the Florida Department of Education for a teacher’s license. I relocated from Virginia where I have a teaching license and taught Computer Science, Accounting and Personal Finance. I have a Master's in Business Administration and a Master's in Education with top grades from leading schools. I also achieved a score of 192 out of 200 on the PRAXIS II licensing exam for Business and Information Technology. My license endorsement in Virginia is for Business and Information Technology. I also have excellent reviews from where I worked in Virginia.

I applied to FL DOE for a teaching license in Computer Science, Marketing and Business. Much to my surprise they said I was not qualified to teach Computer Science and Marketing, even though I have been teaching these subjects in Virginia!

As a result of FL DOE's decision, my ability to secure a teaching position in Collier County has been difficult.

If Gov. DeSantis would like to address the shortage of teachers, I suggested he take a look at what FL DOE is doing. Specifically, the state should look at how it handles licensing and consider expanding reciprocity from other states for qualified licensed and experienced candidates. FL DOE seems to do everything it can to prevent qualified teachers from entering the classroom!

Michael A. Yager, MBA, M. Ed, Naples

Marco 'Yes' campaign becomes toxic

The people running the "Yes" campaign for the registration referendum are the most toxic, hateful people that I have ever encountered in my life.

The bullying and abuse that has run rampant online toward the people who have legitimate arguments against the referendum has spilled over into the streets.

The supporters of the Take Back Marco PAC have resorted to outright destruction of their neighbor's property in broad daylight by stealing and ripping up political signs advocating for a "No" vote. There is video evidence of this happening and has been reported to the police.

The behavior and name calling that I've seen on Nextdoor by the "Yes" supporters is appalling and even frightening. The elitism and the intolerance of the opinions of others is something I have never witnessed before.

We recently moved away from a very liberal/big government state of Illinois to come enjoy what we thought was one of the most conservative, small government towns in Florida with little regulation overreach. Now we are met with bullying and citizens that have brought their big government and intolerance with them to this beautiful town of Marco Island.

This city has always had the most loving and happy people. The locals and visitors, the snowbirds and annual residents, young and old, condo or residential home have all managed to coexist and enjoy this paradise together until recently. I believe that the mindset that is driving the political action committees "Take Back Marco" and "Citizens for a Better Marco" are a cancer that is poisoning this island. We need to take a step back and unite again and not empower this hateful campaign any further.

I am voting No!

Kathy Dennis, Marco Island

Costs imposed on women seeking abortion

It’s gratifying to learn that a number of  major companies, many operating in Florida,   are pledging to  pay travel expenses for women living in states with restrictive abortion laws like the 15-week ban here, to go elsewhere to lawfully terminate their pregnancies.

The companies promising to do so include Disney, with its mammoth sites in Orlando, and those  with facilities here in Naples, such as Amazon, Apple, and JP Morgan, among others.

But travel fare is hardly the only cost that will be incurred by these  women in Florida and about half of the other states with similar or more onerous prohibitions.  What about attorney fees to obtain advice from a lawyer about the legal ramifications of exiting from states that have laws prohibiting them from having an out-of-state abortion? Or the legal costs of  defending against prosecution? And what about similar costs incurred by those who might be accused of aiding or abetting the process in those states that prohibit assisting in obtaining abortions?

Incidentally, women here seeking to overcome the restrictive 15-week abortion ban re-instituted early in July by the state court of appeals can consider my native state, Minnesota, as a destination. The supreme court in that state, like a number of others, has recognized a woman’s “fundamental” right to abortion under the state constitution, irrespective of the recent Dobbs ruling by the U. S. Supreme Court, and a couple of weeks ago a trial judge in that state threw out nearly all restrictions on abortion rights, a decision that the state’s Democratic Attorney General Keith Ellison, last week declined to appeal.

But  while that state may become a haven for abortion seekers, don’t wait too long. The two Republicans  seeking  to challenge Ellison this fall are battling to outdo each other in fidelity to abortion restrictions, one even promising to “wage war” on women’s reproductive rights if elected, the Republican candidate for governor has urged enactment of extreme restrictions, and his lieutenant governor running mate has gained national attention for decrying abortion for facilitating women having “careers.” If that ticket is elected there, Minnesota women may want to come to Florida.

Those companies, based in Florida or elsewhere, that are promising to pay abortion travel expenses should go one step further and cease contributing  funds to politicians, almost all Republicans, who are blocking enactment of legislation reinstating abortion rights at  the national level or opposing reproductive rights in the states.

Paying for expenses beyond travel costs and cutting off funding for politicians supporting repression of reproductive rights would truly demonstrate  that these big companies are willing to put their money where their mouths are.

Marshall H. Tanick, Naples

Racism and oppression

Regarding the guest opinion "Impact Dunbar: Daring to dream."

This was a very welcome expression of the goals and dreams of many, but few are successful. The numbers are in favor of failure. So why should I mention the negatives?  Because if we do not correct the inequities there will never be success.

The few that are successful face hardships and many give up and move away.

If we just shift the equation a few degrees with a few variables perhaps they could be successful. Equality in education, jobs, housing, health care and in pollution. But most of all eliminate mass incarceration, racism and poverty.

Yes, many are so discouraged that they give up hope, even refuse to vote. Writing about the problems has not done much to change them. They remain pervasive.

This is not just a problem for Dunbar, but a problem for all minority groups in Florida. And when you don’t see visible minority participation it gives the correct impression of just what it is: racism and oppression.

Lewis Robinson, Fort Myers

Caution before switching Medicare plans

A recent op-ed piece and numerous TV ads (think Joe Namath) extol the virtues of Medicare Advantage plans, also known as Medicare Part C.

Over 35 percent of Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in these plans. When someone enrolls in an Advantage plan, Medicare pays the carrier a fixed amount.

Medicare Advantage plans may include dental care, prescription drug coverage, eye glasses, fitness membership and preventive care benefits.

The supplementary coverage that most regular Medicare recipients carry is not needed with Advantage plans.

When considering a switch, you should be aware of the pitfalls of Medicare Advantage plans.  These include a limited network of physicians, significant co-pays, specialist referral requirements and possible changes in benefits and costs annually. Out of pocket spending for Medicare Advantage enrollees is currently capped at $7,550  per year.

Medicare Advantage may be worthwhile for those in good health; but those with chronic health conditions who do not have employer or VA benefits should be cautious before switching. As my late mother taught, “There’s no free lunch.”

Stanley Farb , M.D., Naples

Congress, not court, must act

Dr. Jones is pointing at the wrong target in her column “Supreme Court Ruling on the EPA made Florida more unsafe.” The fault lies not with the court, but with Congress. When the EPA  was created in 1972, few contemplated that CO2, a gas that is essential for life, would be considered a pollutant, let alone how such a pollutant should be regulated. Consequently, the law that was passed half a century ago needs to be updated to account for a problem that it is poorly designed to address.

In our government of separated powers, it is up to our elected representatives in Congress to make the laws that set policy. It is not the court’s job nor the EPA’s. Congress has sat on its hands through both Democratic and Republican administrations and congressional majorities. If we want change, we need to get Congress to act.

Andrew Terhune, Naples

The Supreme Court got it right

Dr. Jennifer Jones of FGCU, believes that the Supreme Court ruling on EPA made Florida more unsafe. She said in part: “The recent decision by the Supreme Court limiting the EPA’s ability to prevent the spewing of dangerous fossil emissions is a symbol of public ignorance and puts our environment, people and economy at risk.” By the way, the so-called science is refutable. Climate models are not science.

The crux of this important ruling tells Congress to finish its work and not delegate it to EPA. Chief Justice John Roberts, who delivered the majority opinion, wrote that the Obama-era regulation was too broad of an interpretation of the agency’s authority under the Clean Air Act. “Agencies have only those powers given to them by Congress,” Roberts wrote. “The agency must point to ‘clear congressional authorization’ for the power it claims.” The EPA had no such authorization.

Dr. Jones believes that this crisis can be averted only by reducing or eliminating greenhouse-gas emissions. Greenhouse gases include ubiquitous water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, and above all, carbon dioxide, a gas released when fossil fuels are burned to power transportation, generate electricity, and are used to manufacture amenities of modern life. Are you ready to give up the amenities of modern life?

I disagree with Dr. Jones' doomsday assessment and that “government action” is needed to protect the country. Since this is now a political football, anything the government does should be suspect. Have any doomsday predictions ever come true?

Nick Blauwiekel, Naples

Living in the apex of civilization!

Great article by Dr. on climate change! How did she ever get a doctorate? The fossil fuel industry along with capitalism have lifted the whole world up to the point where it is now!

Where is it now you ask? You are now living in the apex of civilization! Never in history of the world have there been fewer poor and hungry people! If people like the good Dr. have their way we will regress to more poor and hungry people; won't that be great?Judging from the protest by farmers worldwide it looks like she will have her way! Yippee!

Donald Geraci, Alva

Resurgence of antisemitism

I applaud Robert Hilliard’s letter to the editor. The resurgence of antisemitism, more honestly called hatred of Jews, speaks to the information silos and divisiveness in the extremes on the right and left. Hate slogans are absolutes dressed up in bite-size poison slowly killing our diverse and dynamic democratic republic from within. Whether the hate slogans are racist, anti-immigrant, ethnic, religious, class-based or a tragic rise in antisemitism, they truly only serve to weaken America’s future.

Sadly the Grand Ole Party is gone. I doubt it will return given the free fall, spiraling down hasn’t found its soul. The far left Dems are no better insulting much that made America great. It’s hard to believe America has become such a beacon given our history of hatred amongst our people. Imagine how much better America could be if we shared a productive vision for all our children and grandchildren.

Harvey Cohen, Naples

Justice for unscrupulous con man

With several Jan. 6 insurrection participants being convicted and sent to jail for significant sentences, they have to ask themselves, “Was it worth it”? They came to Washington at the behest of the most dishonest, unscrupulous con man in history. Shame on them for believing this obviously corrupt shaman and now they’ll have plenty of time to ask themselves how they could be so brainwashed by a person who has caused imprisonment for so many and manages to escape confinement himself. Justifiably, this perpetrator must and should be indicted and convicted with the myriad of evidence against him. Nothing would appease the sense of justice more than seeing this criminal in an orange jumpsuit although it will look like camouflage on this guy.

Glenn Chenot, Cape Coral

This is who Republicans are

Republicans have told us who they are: 147 voted to overturn a democratic election certified by 8 recounts and 50 court cases; 209 said NO to Roe v Wade; 196 said NO to contraception  (no I am not joking); 157 said NO to same sex marriage and interracial marriage; 20 said NO to stopping sex trafficking 208 said NO to assault rifle bans; 175 Republicans voted NO on a Jan. 6 independent commission and Republicans opposed a House investigation. This deserves elucidation. In the greatest attack on democracy since the Civil War and the greatest attack on democracy by Americans in history by Americans, Republicans chose to cover up and chose party over country.

Republicans, this is who you are.

Bill Linehan, Naples

This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Letters to the editor for Sunday, August 7, 2022