When President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announced he would install an embassy in the Holy City in December 2017, the foreign policy establishment said bad things would follow.
European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini warned the move "has the potential to send us backwards to darker times than the one we already are living in." Then-British Prime Minister Theresa May said the move was "unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region."
Former Secretary of State John Kerry warned it would cause "an explosion in the region." Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., urged Trump not to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital lest the move "spark violence and embolden extremists on both sides of the debate."
The moment shined an unforgiving spotlight on Washington's fecklessness -- really, its comfort with failure that fits within the Beltway's business-as-usual mold versus success reached through unusual channels.
Before Trump, the grown-up thing to do was to give lip service to an embassy in Jerusalem without even pretending to follow through after winning the election, as former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush did.
Likewise, the Senate passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act in June of 2017 -- as it did regularly since 1995 when then-Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., supported the bill, without delivering a doorknob. Feinstein was one of 90 Senators to vote in favor of the measure in 2017, and still, she opposed the embassy move.
Not a single sitting Democratic senator or member of the House showed up for the historic embassy opening in May 2018 after so many years of voting to move the building.
Last month, the United Arab Emirates normalized relations with Israel. Bahrain followed shortly thereafter. Which country will be next? There's talk of Sudan. At Thursday's daily briefing, Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Trump is "the only president to have overseen the normalization of relations between Israel and two Middle East countries."
In Las Vegas recently, Trump told me that he thought Saudi Arabia would follow "at the right time."
President Barack Obama's Iran deal united Israel and Arab states in opposition to the deal, Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies noted. To his credit, Trump saw the opening, won the trust of Gulf leaders and showed the world that the path to peace could be paved without Palestinian leaders, if it came to that.
And Trump did it with his real estate developer son-in-law turned White House senior adviser Jared Kushner to broker "the deal of the century."
Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, admitted in The Washington Post Wednesday, "The developments confounded the predictions of many peace process veterans -- me included."
Otherwise, "it would seem the majority of the peace process community is eager to return to the failed paradigm of the past," Schanzer noted. "They are literally pining to return to failure."
In April, former Vice President Joe Biden said that the embassy move was "short-sighted and frivolous" but that since it was done, he would not move the embassy back to Tel Aviv. But: "My administration will urge both sides to take steps to keep the prospect of a two-state solution alive."
Really? Because that worked so well?
I spoke with former Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., one of four GOP senators who supported the embassy move on paper and attended the event in real life. He predicted it will be in history books 300 years from now and he credited it for the recent peace pacts.
Heller, who lost a reelection bid in 2018, told me, "I was disappointed that Democrats decided to boycott the event." But, he added, "That's just politics in America today for you."
Debra J. Saunders
The first presidential debate probably didn't win many votes for former Vice President Joe Biden, who was vague and unconvincing. I do think, however, the debate may lose President Donald Trump some votes. I may be one of them.
In 2016, I voted for Libertarian Gary Johnson because I saw Democratic Hillary Clinton and Trump as self-destructive chaos agents.
Trump turned out much better than I expected. He is about to put a third highly qualified conservative jurist, Amy Coney Barrett, on the Supreme Court, and he has filled federal courtrooms with qualified judges who won't legislate from the bench.
His decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem was followed by the Abraham Accords that aligned the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain with Israel.
Trump signed the First Step Act, which brought needed reform to the draconian federal criminal sentencing system, yet supports local law enforcement at a time when beat cops are under siege. Biden wrongly referred to antifa as just an "idea."
Trump's handling of the coronavirus started strong. Rather than try to shut down the country completely early on, Trump tapped key agencies and health officials to craft a plan to slow the spread of the pandemic while bringing the American public on board. His gift for logistics should help produce and distribute a vaccine in record time.
Given a choice between a president who wants the country to remain open for business and a candidate who virtue signals in a mask, I'll take the leader who doesn't want the cure to be worse than disease and trusts Americans to choose their level of risk.
Lately Trump hasn't done so well on COVID. He stopped reminding the public about risks to be avoided. He has said he is willing to override federal regulators if they won't approve a vaccine when he thinks they should. Such rhetoric gives skeptical Americans reason not to trust a vaccine that only works if enough people take it.
Perhaps now that he has contracted the virus, Trump will take it more seriously. While his use of masks and social distancing has improved somewhat over time, and the president was tested daily, his example could serve as a cautionary tale.
I think the Russian probe was an attempt to undermine a duly elected president. I still don't understand why the White House hasn't held an on-camera briefing to expose the outrages associated with the investigation. But I do know why. Trump can't or won't lay out the case systematically and, he won't share the spotlight.
We saw that during the first debate Tuesday night. Trump won't prepare a careful case, as he prefers to bluff his way through an argument.
I know that with his elbows-out posture, Trump has achieved things I never could do. But I don't know that he can continue to deliver. As with every tactic, it works until it doesn't. I don't understand how a man who has achieved so much seems to never learn from his mistakes.
When moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump if he would condemn white supremacist. Trump answered "Sure, I'm willing to do that".
I've never seen a president less willing to do things he doesn't like, such as listening to an opponent and moderator during a debate. If Trump can't do something that simple, what else won't he do?
So I've decided if Trump's feelings are so important, what about my feelings? Why should I support someone who has nothing but contempt for my belief in civility and behavioral norms? Maybe I could just stay home and pout.
Debra J. Saunders
All of the pages on Joe Biden's campaign website carry a motto that sits -- appropriately -- at the upper-left corner of the page. It says "Battle for the Soul of the Nation."
The site recently added a page that, beneath this ubiquitous motto, presents a statement from Biden urging the Senate not to vote on President Donald Trump's nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.
What is Biden's reasoning? He argues that many Americans are already casting their votes in this year's presidential election.
"Election Day is just weeks away, and millions of Americans are already voting because the stakes in this election could not be higher," says Biden. "They feel the urgency of this choice -- an urgency made all the more acute by what's at stake at the U.S. Supreme Court."
And what does Biden believe Americans believe is at stake at the U.S. Supreme Court?
"They are voting," Biden says, "because they don't want Roe v. Wade, which has been the law of the land for nearly half a century, to be overturned."
Yes, this is a battle for the soul of America.
And Biden -- with his very soul, apparently -- is battling to make sure the Supreme Court continues to hold that killing an unborn child is a constitutional right.
With almost as much consistency as his webpages, Biden's speeches are punctuated with references to the battle for our nation's soul.
On April 29, 2019, four days after he officially announced his presidential campaign, Biden held an event in Pennsylvania. There he declared that the battle for the soul of America was the primary reason he was running.
"There are three basic reasons why I'm running for president of the United States," Biden said. "The first is to restore the soul of the nation. And the second is to rebuild the backbone of the nation. And the third is to unify this nation."
On Aug. 12, 2020, Biden presented his newly named running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, as a comrade in arms who would fight alongside him in the battle for America's soul.
"I knew we were in a battle for the soul of the nation," Biden said at an event in Delaware. "That's why I decided to run, and I'm proud now to have Sen. Harris at my side in that battle, because she shares the same intensity I do.
"She is someone who knows what's at stake," said Biden. "The question is for all Americans to answer: Who are we as a nation? What do we stand for? And, most importantly, what do we want to be?"
What issues (other than abortion) had cemented this philosophical bond -- this common understanding of our future -- between Biden and Harris?
On March 13, 2019, Harris signed on as an original Senate co-sponsor of the Equality Act. "The bill," says the official summary posted on the congressional website, "prohibits an individual from being denied access to a shared facility, including a restroom, a locker room, and a dressing room, that is in accordance with the individual's gender identity."
In other words, the bill would prohibit preventing a biological male -- who claims he "identifies" as a female -- from using "a restroom, a locker room, and a dressing room" that are set aside for biological females.
What about female basketball or track teams?
When the Equality Act came up in the House Judiciary Committee in 2019, Republican Rep. Greg Steube of Florida offered a commonsensical amendment -- that failed.
"An amendment by Mr. Steube," the committee's report explained, "to add a rule of construction providing that nothing in the Act or any amendment made by it may be construed to require a biological female to face competition from a biological male in any sporting event was defeated by a roll-call vote of 10 to 22."
Under the leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the full House approved the Equality Act on May 17, 2019.
Harris instantly applauded. "The Equality Act just passed the House, sending a clear message that discrimination against LGBTQ* people won't be tolerated," she said in a tweet.
"I urge the GOP to bring it to the Senate floor," she added.
The Republican Senate leadership did not.
But what would a President Biden do with this legislation that was pushed through the House by Pelosi and co-sponsored in the Senate by his own vice president?
A page on Biden's website -- that, like all others, declares a "Battle for the Soul of the Nation" -- says: "Biden will make enactment of the Equality Act during his first 100 days as President a top legislative priority."
Would Biden actually require schools to let biological males play on the girls' sports teams and use their restrooms and locker rooms?
If he doesn't, he would be reneging on an explicit campaign promise.
"On his first day in office," says Biden's website, "Biden will reinstate the Obama-Biden guidance revoked by the Trump-Pence Administration, which will restore transgender students' access to sports, bathrooms, and locker rooms in accordance with their gender identity."
That -- in addition to promoting abortion -- is that another way Biden plans to battle for the soul of our nation.
World Wrestling Entertainment fans have a new sport. It's called presidential debate, and they should be sure to catch the next one.
President Donald Trump and Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden delivered no new ideas or insights into policy, but they had fun bludgeoning each other with personal insults. Everyone expected such behavior from Trump, but Biden played along by calling Trump a "racist" who uses "racist dog whistles." Trump is a "clown." Biden said "will you shut up, man," after Trump suggested Biden would lose the far left for trying to sound moderate on socialized health care.
For Biden's fans and foes alike, this debate was a test. They wondered if the 78-year-old candidate, appearing confused routinely while speaking extemporaneously in recent months, could get through 90 minutes without an embarrassing blunder. He did just fine, possibly putting the "mentally fit for office" question to rest for a while.
Biden came across as a man trying to be more Trump than Trump, and Trump came across as Trump. The president tried to cast Biden as stupid after Biden used the word "smart."
"Smart?" Trump quipped. "Don't ever use the word smart with me. There is nothing smart about you, Joe."
Trump berated Biden for graduating near the bottom of his class. He said Biden could not remember which college he attended, a reference to Biden's claim this weekend he got his start the historically Black Delaware State University. The university reports Biden never enrolled at the school, but he has spoken there several times.
And on and on it went, with the American public learning nothing new about either man. It became a contest of who could deliver a better personal jab.
Biden blamed Trump for the pandemic and accused him of wanting to take free health care from millions of Americans. Trump accused Biden of trying to take private health insurance from millions of Americans. Yawn, we've heard it all before.
The closest thing to a WWE Ironclaw Slam maneuver came when the men discussed law and order. Trump enumerated some of his endorsements from law-enforcement organizations, then put Biden in a lurch.
"Name one (law enforcement) group that came out and supported you," Trump demanded. "Go ahead, we have time. Name one. There aren't any."
Looking mildly befuddled, Biden had no answer.
Moderator Chris Wallace moved the awkward moment along quickly, asking Biden if he had called on the Democratic mayor of Portland, Ore., or Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to seek help from the National Guard in quelling violent protests.
"I don't hold public office now," Biden said.
It was a problematic answer, given that Biden had declared "I am the Democratic Party" earlier in the debate. One might expect a man who is one-in-the-same as the party to lead Democratic politicians in solving big problems.
Another almost substantive and telling moment during the made-for-TV brawl fest came when discussing the environment. Biden scored points with a base that supports him by condemning Trump for pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord. Biden pledged to rejoin the agreement upon taking office. Another yawn-we've-already-heard-that moment.
Trump fired back by telling Biden the Green New Deal would cripple the country economically, ruining air travel, harming the military and costing the economy some $100 trillion.
"The Green New Deal is not my plan," Biden said in reply.
That somehow led to Trump accusing Biden of calling the military "stupid bastards." Then, as from out of the blue, a Reverse Frakensteiner move had Biden back on the ropes defending the Green New Deal.
"The Green New Deal will pay for itself as we move forward," Biden said, sounding like a man who planned to implement the plan.
Puzzled by that statement, from a candidate who distanced himself from the plan just moments prior, Wallace jumped in to save Joe.
"Do you support the Green New Deal?" Wallace demanded.
"No, I don't support the Green New Deal," Biden said. That was weird because he just finished explaining how the deal would help resolve "global warming" and pay for itself. We're left to wonder whether Biden will or will not give us a Green New Deal.
That was as close to a moment of substantive insight as this debate offered. The rest was an artful display of pre-planned Headlock Drivers and common body slams.
Given the near-complete lack of meaningful and insightful discussion, Biden could have won the night by appearing as the seasoned, respectful, civilized and erudite statesman. He made no such attempt, appearing instead like a man who chose to take on Trump by acting like Trump. Conversely, Trump could have won the debate by appearing like a man who can play with respect for the rules. Instead, he routinely interrupted Wallace. Even worse for his cause, Trump interrupted Biden during answers in which the candidate might otherwise have found himself lost in a lengthy train of thought.
The debate was fun to watch, for those who like manufactured and meaningless conflict. It offered nothing more and should have no role in moving the needle among the small demographic of undecided voters who will determine this election. If they watched, they must be as confused and dismayed about this election as they were the day before. But that's the world of TV wrestling. Win or lose, it's all just a show.
"There is no... sound reason for the United States to continue sacrificing precious lives and treasure in a conflict not directly connected to our safety or other vital national interests."
So said William Ruger about Afghanistan, our longest war.
What makes this statement significant is that President Donald Trump has ordered a drawdown by mid-October of half of the 8,600 troops still in the country. And Ruger was just named U.S. ambassador to Kabul.
The selection of Ruger to oversee the U.S. withdrawal came as Gen. Frank McKenzie of Central Command announced plans to cut the U.S. troop presence in Iraq from 5,200 to 3,000 by the end of September.
Is America, at long last, really coming home from the forever wars?
A foreign policy analyst at the libertarian Charles Koch Institute and a Naval officer decorated for his service in Afghanistan, Ruger has long championed a noninterventionist foreign policy.
His nomination tends to confirm that, should Trump win a second term, his often-declared goal of extracting America from the forever wars of the Middle East, unachieved in his first term, would become a priority.
Yet, we have been here before, bringing our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan, only to send thousands back when our enemies seemed to be gaining the upper hand at the expense of the allies we left behind.
Still, this time, Trump's withdrawals look to be irreversible. And with the U.S. deal with the Taliban producing peace negotiations between the Kabul government and the Taliban, America seems to be saying to both sides of this endless civil war:
The destiny of Afghanistan is yours. The choice of war or peace is up to you. If talks collapse and a fight to the finish ensues, we Americans are not coming back, even to prevent a Taliban victory.
Speaking in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Trump made a remarkable declaration:
"We don't have to be in the Middle East, other than we want to protect Israel. ... There was a time we needed desperately oil, we don't need that anymore." If Trump means what he says, U.S. forces will be out of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan early in his second term.
But how to explain the continued presence of tens of thousands of U.S. troops in Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan, Djibouti, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Diego Garcia?
Another indication of where a Trump second term is pointing is the naming of retired Col. Douglas Macgregor as ambassador to Germany.
The winner of a Bronze Star for valor in the 1991 Gulf War, Macgregor speaks German and is steeped in that country's history. He has been highly visible on cable TV, calling for the transfer to our allies of the primary responsibility for their own defenses, and elevating the security of America's Southern border to a far higher national imperative.
In 2019, Macgregor was quoted: "The only solution is martial law on the border, putting the United States Army in charge of it and closing it off would take about 30, 40,000 troops. We're talking about the regular army. You need robust rules of engagement. That means that you can shoot people as required if your life is in danger."
That Macgregor's priorities may be Trump's also became evident with the president's announcement this summer of the withdrawal of 12,000 of the 35,000 U.S. troops stationed in Germany.
Yet, at the same time, there is seemingly contradictory evidence to the notion that Donald Trump wants our troops home. Currently, some 2,800 U.S., British, and French troops are conducting "Noble Partner" exercises with Georgian troops in that country in the Caucasus bordering Russia.
In Trump's first term, his commitment to extricate America from the forever wars went unrealized, due in part to the resistance of hawks Trump himself appointed to carry out his foreign policy agenda.
Clearly, with the cuts in troops in Germany, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the appointments of Ruger and Macgregor, Trump has signaled a new resolve to reconfigure U.S. foreign policy in an "America First" direction, if he wins a second term. Will he follow through?
Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. has been in an extended argument with itself over America's role, America's mission in the world.
George H. W. Bush's New World Order is ancient history, as are the democracy crusades his son George W. Bush was persuaded to launch.
But what will Trump's foreign policy legacy be, should he win?
Joe Biden has signaled where he is headed -- straight back to Barack Obama:
"First thing I'm going to have to do, and I'm not joking: if elected I'm going to have to get on the phone with the heads of state and say America's back," Biden said, saying NATO has been "worried as hell about our failure to confront Russia."
Trump came to office pledging to establish a new relationship with the Kremlin of President Vladimir Putin.
Is that still his goal, or have the Beltway Russophobes prevailed?
Most expected President Donald Trump on Tuesday to tout his record in allocating the full federal $200 million annual commitment to the 40-year, $10.5 billion Everglades restoration plan for only the second time since Congress approved it in 2000.
Instead, during a campaign stop in Jupiter, Trump addressed another issue on Floridians’ minds: fears he planned to lift the moratorium on Gulf of Mexico oil drilling in June 2022 if he was re-elected.
That won’t happen, Trump pledged, signing an executive order extending the drilling ban in the Gulf of Mexico through 2032 and expanding the ban to new offshore drilling to sites off the Florida’s Atlantic coast, as well as to waters off Georgia and South Carolina.
“Who would have thought, ‘Trump is the great environmentalist?’ ” the president said. “You hear that? That’s good, and I am. I am. I believe strongly in it.”
The Trump administration reportedly was poised to lift a federal moratorium on Gulf drilling – despite bipartisan opposition from Florida’s congressional delegation and state lawmakers – and offer leases after November’s election within the state’s newly created 800-square-mile Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve.
Fear not, Trump said, citing a memo from Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt that said the region has been withdrawn from consideration through June 2032.
“My administration’s proving every day that we can improve our environment while creating millions of high-paying jobs,” Trump said, claiming Democratic challenger Joe Biden’s environmental plans would “destroy America’s middle class while giving a free pass to the world’s worst foreign polluters.
“To our political opponents,” he said, “environmental policy is just an excuse to impose a socialist platform that will impose trillions and trillions of dollars in taxes and send our jobs overseas, making it impossible to open up new companies and to live less expensively. (Democrats) talk a big game, and they do nothing.”
Trump said he consulted with Gov. Ron DeSantis and U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott in crafting the 10-year drilling moratorium extension.
“As Gov. I fought for & secured a commitment from this Administration to keep drilling off FL’s coasts,” Scott tweeted shortly after Trump’s announcement. “After many conversations with [Trump] on the importance of keeping FL’s coastlines pristine, I’m glad he’s extending the moratorium for another 10 yrs. Big win for FL!”
“Drilling off the shores of Florida is a non-starter – not worth the risk of endangering our environment, fishing, boating or tourism,” U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Melbourne, said in a statement.
“President Trump’s plan to extend the moratorium is the right one, and it proves that our voices are being heard. We must never tolerate drilling near our beautiful coastline!”
A Quinnipiac University Poll in March 2019 found 64 percent of Florida voters opposed drilling off state waters, with 29 percent supporting it. All political, gender, education, age and racial groups were opposed to offshore drilling – except Florida Republicans, who supported offshore drilling, 54 percent to 38 percent.
Trump announced in December he would boost his Everglades funding request by more than $130 million from the $63 million he first sought, marking only the second time in 20 years the federal government fulfilled its annual $200 million commitment to the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) that was adopted by Congress in 2000.
The boost in federal funding dovetails with DeSantis’ four-year, $2.5 billion state-funded Everglades restoration plan. The first two years have been approved by lawmakers, including more than $625 million in this year’s spending plan.
A key component within CERP and DeSantis’ plans is underway, with the 10,100-acre, $1.6 billion Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) reservoir project breaking ground this year.
The Center Square
I moved to SW Florida over 25 years ago from New England, in my youth I worked at a NY Style Deli in Boston, just around the corner from Fenway park... the Kenmore Deli, where I learned among many other things, about Bratwurst, Hot Pastrami and The Reuben Sandwich, growing up in an Italian family, I had never tried these items prior to that job, I really liked the pastrami, the Bratwurst....not so much... but the Reuben..... I was in love.
This sandwich when prepared correctly gives the utmost pleasure to the senses and taste buds.
It has been one of the things that has been very difficult to find here in Florida, oh don't get me wrong, many local eateries offer the sandwich but a great one is hard to find. I'm sure I'll get all kinds of emails telling me of great places that serve them but although I have tried Reubens all over the place and have had some good ones....
I finally found one I can call Great!
Now I could be telling you about how wonderful the atmosphere was,
right on the water with breathtaking views or about how good their Honey dipped, Bacon wrapped Shrimp
or the Harbor Mussels apps are and believe me... they are wonderful, but I'm here to talk about the Reuben!
Served on a marbled rye bread with thinly sliced Corned Beef, that was juicy and tender with just the right amount of Thousand Island Dressing, (too much and the sandwich is a mess, too little and it doesn't taste right) and also the right amount of sauerkraut (this is important: sauerkraut should be drained but not dry, again too much on the sandwich is bad, too little also bad .... this was perfect) and topped off with Swiss Cheese, grilled on a flat grill to perfection but not soaked oil/butter, this Reuben seemed to be grilled without any oil or butter.... nice! And it was also served with fresh cooked homemade potato chips, the combination was great.
Some of my friends have called me a Reuben snob! Hey, what can I say, I worked at that deli for years and made my own Reubens so I got pretty picky about how it is supposed to be.
I enjoyed it so much I came back the next day to see if it was a fluke or they have it down.... once again.... it was great!
So I made you wait till the end of the article to find out where this great Reuben is to be found!!! At Snug Harbor located on the back bay at 645 Old San Carlos Blvd, Fort Myers Beach, Fl 33931.
For a limited time..... Mention the Sun Bay Paper and get your second Drink FREE... only one per person and not available with any other specials or
Whether you're a golf genius, a passionate putter or just love arguing with competitive siblings - Tiger Woods has got just the thing for you.
While juggling his preparation for the US Open next week, the legendary golfer has revealed his plans to open up a state-of-the-art crazy golf course.
Woods, who already owns a portion of PopStroke in Port Saint Lucie, hoped to add a second mini course to the highly-rated facility later this year.and dispite Covid -19 ... the course opened on schedule last week at 5531 Six Mile Commercial Ct, Fort Myers, FL 33912
The 44-year-old has been working behind the scenes on a design for the 36-hole course
But Woods' plans aren't just any old plans - this is the 15-time major champion we're talking about here.
It's understood the future World Golf Hall of Famer wants his extravagant course to include bunkers, fairways and roughs.
Oh, and on top of that he plans on having the entire course made out of synthetic grass.
"As a partner in PopStroke, I am excited to use golf and specifically putting to bring families and friends together," Woods said.
"From competitive putting tournaments to kids playing on the playground, PopStroke really does offer something for all ages.
"Keeping families, kids and skilled putters in mind while building the two putting courses was a fun challenge for myself and my TGR Design team.
"I am proud to be an owner and partner of PopStroke."
The beautiful facilities also feature dining and drinking areas as well as places for children to play.
The Fort Myers facility features two putting courses. The Cub is more geared toward beginners and the Tiger is more challenging. Golfers can keep their score with an app that also includes the ability to order food and drinks from the on-site restaurant and have them delivered to them on the course.
PopStroke also will have at least two more facilities on Florida's Gulf Coast. One is slated for North Naples, at a soon-to-be-finalized location, and another in Sarasota in the next year.
The Fort Myers Beach Town Council met at 5:01 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 10, regular meeting as well as the first hearing on the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget.
The meeting began with public comment from two gentlemen and a report from Ellyn Bogdanoff, a security risk assessor hired by the Lani Kai Hotel.
One of the gentlemen who spoke was Len Lemmer, owner of Nervous Nellie’s Restaurant. He requested that the Town allow him to lease a small piece of Bayside Park to accommodate the restaurant’s hostess station and propane heaters. He also requested to continue to be part of the conversations about the Bayside Park redesign.
The second gentleman was 40 year resident, John Heim, involved with South West Florida Clean Water Movement, he brought attention to past administrations having approved signage on the beach and some accesses do have signs and some still do not... with QR codes and the ones that do have the codes, when you use the QR codes where they is signage, the link does not work, and wondering why it has never worked and when it can work, as taxpayers are paying for it!
Then he spoke about testing the water quality of the back bay under previous Natural Resource Director Ray Blake, whose job was to test the waters, and the job was about being transparent and giving this information to the general public about what was in the water, when it came to her findings, that information was never relinquished .... at all! And when recently ask to ex mayor Cereceda, she said the records never existed, as if the tests were never taken ...again this is taxpayers money....this was a budget item.... Posing the question "are we still paying for water testing, are we still conducting water testing and where is the information after four years now."
Next he spoke of the city allowing runoff from the construction to go into the back bay bringing attention to the fact that the Estero Aquatic Preserve was the first protected body of water in the state of Florida and here we are allowing this construction company to build coverts and pump their chemicals and who knows what else right down to peoples canals and making these canals extremely dangerous and he reminded the council that the canals have never been dredged in history, closing with a request that the council give consideration to these items he spoke about and requested the council dredge the canals and treat them like a roadway.
Ellyn Bogdanoff came to this meeting to report on the data analysis that she completed to investigate concerns of residents and Town Councilors about the amount of law enforcement actions at the Lani Kai. Bogdanoff said that about 75% of the sheriff’s actions at the Lani Kai are not serious. Town Councilors questioned this analysis at length... very much so. She also said that she has identified training for security staff and controlling property access as two areas of improvement to be implemented at the Lani Kai.
She spoke for about 40 minutes answering every question, over and over and over again, so much so that the mayor commented several times that the questions have been already answered and we are repeating ourselves.
During the first budget hearing that was part of this meeting, the recommended tax millage rate of .95 for Fiscal Year 2021 - same rate as this fiscal year - was proposed for adoption at the second budget hearing. This rate provides the revenue to continue current levels of service and repay the loan to improve Times Square, Bay Oaks Recreational Campus, and Bayside Park.
The second budget hearing was set for 5:01 p.m. on September 21, 2020.
In other business, the Town Manager asked for approval for street performers to start back within the next few weeks, which was granted. Street performers must apply for a permit and be approved. The form and more information can be found on the Town’s website, as well as a link to the video from the entire meeting.
Florida does not have the luxury to engage in ideological debates over climate change when it comes to rising sea levels, according to the incoming state Senate president and speaker of the House.
“With 1,350 miles of coastline, relatively low elevations, and communities built largely on top of
former swampland, Florida remains particularly
vulnerable to the risk of flooding caused by sea level rise,” Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Spring Hill, and Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, wrote in a Florida Politics op-ed. “Over the last several years, we have seen that risk grow exponentially.”
At risk: $300 billion in taxable property value in seaside communities projected to be underwater by century’s end.
“Over 20 percent of (Florida) homes, the largest single investment for most families, have a greater than one-in-four chance of flooding over a 30-year mortgage. Unless we take steps to curb this risk, those numbers will likely grow,” Simpson and Sprowls wrote.
Florida lawmakers reviewed several bills related to rising sea levels during the 2020 legislative session.
Adopted unanimously by both chambers, Senate Bill 178 prohibits local governments and the state from building a coastal structure without a sea level impact projection (SLIP) study approved by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and funded by the new Florida Resilient Coastline Initiative (FRCI).
A bill adopted by the Senate to create a Florida Office of Resiliency and a nine-member sea level task force, however, failed to gain traction in the House.
The 2021 Legislature’s GOP leaders said lawmakers will continue to develop sea-level mitigation strategies in the upcoming session.
“Unlike the overpriced and entirely unrealistic ‘Green New Deal,’ Florida remains focused on finding solutions that actually work,” Simpson and Sprowls wrote, noting the FRCI is among “solutions that actually work,” with $2.1 million in grants already issued to 30 coastal communities in 17 counties.
Simpson and Sprowls outlined three policy goals.
“First, we want to elevate flood mitigation as a critical part of Florida’s public safety infrastructure,” they wrote. “We should approach these projects systematically by assessing long-term needs, making sound engineering decisions and being fiscally disciplined in when, where and how we spend taxpayer dollars.”
Coordinating with federal agencies is vital, Simpson and Sprowls said, noting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development have “made significant funding available for resilience in the context of rebuilding hurricane-impacted areas.”
Most notable is the Corps’ proposed $4.6 billion plan to build 6 miles of 6-to-13-foot “flood walls” in south Florida, including within Biscayne Bay.
“These are great first steps toward an enhanced federal-state partnership; however, given the size and importance of our state, Florida should be receiving a greater proportion of existing funds allocated for flooding prevention,” Simpson and Sprowls wrote.
“Third,” Simpson and Sprowls concluded, “we want to address the disparate local impacts of this statewide challenge. Tampa Bay, for instance, is one of the areas at greatest risk for storm surge. Not only in the state, but in the nation.”
Ultimately, not all imperiled areas can be rescued from eventual inundation and some won’t be capable of committing the local resources to do so.
“While state government must take a leading role in this fight, we are not going to simply subsidize high-risk communities,” Simpson and Sprowls wrote. “In this area, as in many other policy areas, we believe in helping those who are willing to help themselves.”
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