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Wednesday, 23 December 2015 10:44

Stop Over Developing: Political and Media Manipulation Underlies Process

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Sixteen years ago, when I first started publishing my start-up newspaper, The Island Sand Paper, I tried to publish articles that supported preserving the “Old Florida” style that made Fort Myers Beach such a special place to live. By adopting the phrase “By Islanders-For Islanders”, I sought to give residents a rallying cry to bind them together with a common desire to cherish and protect the sensitivity of our barrier Island community.

Now, with much water over the bridge, we are faced with another huge threat to our laid back island lifestyles. If the good people of Fort Myers Beach allow their leaders to embrace the Torgenson proposal to overbuild the commercial area on the Island’s north end, the character and style that drew most of us to Estero Island will soon come to an end.

Always we see the same dog and pony show. Always we are told “more” is progress. Leaders who want an increased tax base; who want to be in the middle of “big projects” or assuming responsibility for “complex issues,” seem to never tire of telling us we “need” something “more.”

What is true to me is that we don’t need more, we just need to take care of what we already have. If we stop being obsessed and enamored with the notion that progress means more things and instead begin to focus on the idea that the best progress we could make might be to slow down and appreciate what we already have in front of us.

I will say this – if we don’t fix our water woes, all the new hotels and shops in the world won’t matter. When your eyes burn from red tide outbreaks or you walk the beach and see dead fish and clumps of decayed brown algae what will a monstrous new development matter?

I am going to spit out a hard truth. There is a reason why most people seek political office – they want the power that comes with the position. When you see millions or tens of millions spent on getting an office that has a short shelf life and a salary that can’t even come close to matching the amount spent to get the job, you have to look behind the public promises of “I am for the people” and see the truth of “I want to be personally enriched by my position.

There is a reason why almost nobody leaves an elected office of any consequence without acquiring personal wealth. Of course it is cleverly hidden, but the flow of money is real.

When a large project like the Torgerson development comes up for review by our elected officials behind the scenes deals are made and they are not altruistic. It is so hard to see the paper trail because one of the things our political class concentrates well is how to hide the money or “launder” it in such a way as to skirt the margins of the law.

Real Estate offices get commissions for property sales that are made as part of the project and no one connects the dots. Jobs are promised in the same private sectors that are affected by the very politicians that are supposed to look out for the people without bias, conflicts of interest or undue influence. The Sunshine Laws are considered a joke by most politicians thought they publically say otherwise. I know this to be a fact because over my years publishing I have personally seen them violated on numerous occasions.

I am sure by publishing this Editorial I will become even more of a pariah to the political class than I already am but I don’t care that much anymore where duplicity is present.

If I can stress anything the most it is this – Our political class is owned by big money and they are the same people who control the majority of the media that we the people read or watch to find out what is going on. Do you think for a minute that you get the “hard news”?

I learned the hard way how easy it is to sway the public. For over 15 years I served the community of Lee County and particularly the Town of Fort Myers Beach. This service ranged from being Santa Clause for over 7 years delivering toys with the Fire District, to taking on Big Sugar and Developers over water quality issues. Yet when I ran for Town Council the same people who had given me dozens of plaques, letters of praise and accepted the tens of thousands of dollars in money raised for beach projects and local philanthropy, tuned on me with a vengeance. Yes, I know it sounds like sour grapes, but be assured it has been six years since the election and I have had ample to time to see things for what they truly are and if I can’t use my own experiences as a basis for commentary what is relevant?

Simply put, when I ran, I privately told many of those in power at the time I didn’t like the way the Beach was progressing politically. I also said I would be taking a hard look at contracts and other agreements where taxpayer dollars were being spent. As a former lawyer who sat on the Law Review and majored in contract law, they knew I would see things for what they really were and that a reading ‘between the lines” was coming.

It’s ok, the people spoke and even though I think I lost mostly because of bad media coverage by those I had taken on as Editor and Publisher of the newspaper, I moved on but the lesson was not lost on me!

Now, sitting as Publisher of The Sun Bay Pape, a newspaper that is circulated far beyond the confines of Fort Myers Beach, I am publishing what we see without regard to whether we make the political class mad or whether some advertisers will forego advertising with us because we won’t support their commercial interests. Based on the size or our delivery route, we have what I believe is the second or third largest distribution area in Lee county for a hard newspaper.

It would be far more profitable to take the low road and acquiesce and support those with the money making the decisions, but I strongly believe we are at a crossroads in America. The public is rapidly losing all respect for the media. They have awakened to the fact that the media is biased and pretty much a creature of elitists with agendas not usually lined up with what the people want. They have been very clever for a long time, but the people now see the biases, duplicity and agendas. They see that only politicians who support the money are put in front of the people.

In some ways, the current campaign for our next US President has brought this new awareness by the people to the forefront. Even a cursory look at onsite news sources and the millions of comments made by everyday readers shows media mistrust is rampant and expressed the opinion of the majority of literate Americans. We are proud to be part of what will hopefully be a new era on journalism; a time when news, editorial and opinion content, including submissions from readers will be uncensored and divorced from the control of those who want to peel us, spend our taxpayer dollars for their own personal enrichment and use political correctness to make us feel guilty for expressing what we really feel.

To those who want to turn our warm, friendly beaches into their version of a commercial utopia that is anything but a utopia, beware this paper is not captive by anyone.

Carl Conley

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