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The Coast Guard repatriated
103 Cuban migrants, including
one migrant with a selfinflicted
gunshot wound, to Bahia
de Cabañas, Cuba, within the past
72 hours.
The Coast Guard Cutter
Charles David Jr. crew repatriated
58 Cuban migrants Saturday, and
45 more Cuban migrants Monday.
These repatriations are a result of
10 separate migrant interdictions
at sea since June 17, in the south
Florida Straits. In each instance,
the Coast Guard helped secure the
U.S. border and prevented these
perilous sea voyages from ending in tragedy. In one case the Coast
Guard successfully rescued,
treated and repatriated a migrant
with a self-inflicted gunshot
wound to the shoulder.
"Safety of life at sea continues
to be the Coast Guard's primary
concern," said Capt. Mark
Gordon, chief of enforcement for
the Coast Guard 7th District. "The
increase in extreme acts we have
seen, such as self-inflicted gunshot
wounds, increases the danger
to both the migrants and our Coast Guard crews. Illegal migrants,
aboard overloaded and unseaworthy
vessels, are putting their lives
at severe risk of injury and death.
The Coast Guard along with our
partner agencies will continue to
patrol vigilantly in order to rescue
and repatriate undocumented migrants
who take to the sea."
Once aboard a Coast
Guard cutter, all migrants receive
food, water, shelter and medical
attention.
Since Oct. 1, at least 4,807
Cubans have attempted to illegally
migrate to the U.S. via the maritime
environment compared to 4,473 in fiscal year 2015. These
statistics represent the total number
of at-sea interdictions, landings
and disruptions in the Florida
Straits, the Caribbean and Atlantic.
The Coast Guard Cutter Charles
David Jr. is a 154-foot fast response
cutter homeported in Key
West, Florida.

Thursday, 28 July 2016 10:27

Local Family Fun Amusement Park

One of the busiest weekends
of the year is upon us and if
you’re in the mood to have some
family fun, you won’t need to
leave Lee County to do it. If fact, if
you're a parent like me, you’ve
probably found yourself looking
for something to do with your
"under-age" children. If that’s the
case you’ll be delighted to know a
local kid friendly amusement park
– Zoomers – is right here in our
neighborhood.
On a bright summer day
when I decided to head over and
meet with Yicila Almeida the manager
of the park. She had invited
me to enjoy the wide variety of entertainment
they offer, since the
Park is less than five miles from
Fort Myers Beach, another great
holiday destination, the family can
make a whole day and evening in
the area without ever getting
bored.
Zoomers is an indoor/outdoor
facility with multiple attractions
for the whole family to enjoy
no matter what the age spread.
They have different styles of gokart
tracks like the Rookie-Go-
Kart track and the Slick Go-Kart
track. Even Moms' and Dads' enjoy
racing around the track.
The Slick-Go-Kart track is
designed to simulate driving on ice, and most of us
know how harrowing that can be!
You need to be at least 56 inches
tall to enjoy this track as a driver,
but if you’re a bit short, you can
still enjoy the thrills as a passenger.
But if you can’t do without
driving, then head over to the
rookie track where the height requirement
drops to 40 inches but
you still need to be at least 4 years
old to drive. Don't be discouraged
from if it’s a rainy day because
Zoomers stays open seven days a
week - rain or shine.
The fun at Zoomers also includes
a number of interesting family
attractions such as; Voodoo
Island Mini Golf, the Family Fun Arcade, Bumper Boats, Hippo
Water Slide, a Tilt a Whirl, Water
Wars, and of course the six brand
new Midway rides. “These coasters
are designed specifically for
younger children.” Almeida said
"they wanted to make sure the kids
can ride, it seems when you go to
the big amusement parks that the
kids don't meet the height requirement.
We don't want that problem."
With a little more research I
found that there is still a height requirement
of 36" and young children
must be able to sit up on their
own as well as having control of
their neck and head.
There is no admission to
get into the park you simply enjoy
what you want. If you like arcade
games they have a huge selection
to choose from that averages only
65 cents a play or purchase a Z
card with any amount you'd like.
Maybe you prefer just a round of
mini-golf, if that's the case you can
head over to the Voodoo Island to
play the 18 hole course for only
$7.50. If that's not enough than
you can ride any 1 of the 6 midway
rides that are only $5 a ride.
"Most parents like to
watch their kids having fun" said
Almeida, "it brings a smile to my
face to see families have a good
time."
Zoomers offers party packages for Birthdays, company
retreats ect. The different
party packs are tailored to fit your
varied interests. each of the party
rooms offers a panoramic view of
the park and surrounding areas.
Zoomers truly is a
child's dream land considering they
have endless entertainment.
The Zoomer Party is a 1
hour and 45 minute party that includes,
1 hour of unlimited coaster
rides, amusement rides and Go-Kart
rides. 45 minutes in the party area
so everyone can enjoy eating their
cake along with 100 prize points
for the birthday child, 50 for each
guest and one game of mini golf.
As your child plays the arcade
games they earn bonus points that
can be used for more play time or
prizes. This package only costs
$199 for up to 10 children,
Zoomers also has a Zoomer
Fest Package which includes a 3
hour and 45 minute party. The
children get a whopping three
hours of unlimited amusement
rides, Go-Karts, and Mini Golf. 45
minutes in the party area, 500 prize
points for the birthday child, 100
for each party guest, and a $5 Zcard
per guest.
"This package is probably
the most popular because the kids
get to enjoy three hours" said
Almeida "Instead of 1 hour when
they just get warmed up for the entertainment."
The Zoomer fest package
costs $299 for up to 10 children,
that’s a $493 value.
Zoomer Tastic is another
party favorite for the kids and
adults that like to have fun as well.
Zoomer Tastic offers 3 hours of
unlimited ride time for Go-Karts,
Mini-Golf, and the coasters. 1
hour and 45 minutes in a private
room, 1000 prize points for the
birthday child, 200 for each party
guest, along with a $10 Z-Card , 2
games of water wars or 1 hour of
unlimited video games. This party
package gives a birthday T-shirt to
the birthday child, and the staff
will take pictures during the outside
activities with a flash drive of
the pictures so you can cherish the
memories.
"Water Wars is so much
fun, especially if it's a hot day and
you want to cool off, than you will
probably want to join the fun"
Almeida quipped with an excited
tone in her voice.
I'm sure your wondering
what water wars is, she asked, my
curiosity was piqued. Essentially,
it's a more exciting style of a water
balloon fight.
"That's what we shoot for,
a good memory they can leave
with" said Almeida.
As you can see Zoomers
does not have a shortage of fun or
activities. The next time you're
wondering where to spend your
child's birthday, or if you’re still
thinking about what to do on
America’s birthday, consider all
the activities you can find so close
to home, to enjoy and put
Zoomers on your “to do” list.
Zoomers is located at 17455 Summerlin
Rd. Fort Myers Hours:
opens at 10 am and closes at 10 pm
every day , except Friday and Sat it
closes at 11 pm

If you’re road-tripping this
holiday weekend, you’re in good
company. With U.S. gasoline
prices the lowest in more than a
decade, travelers are expected to
hit the road in record numbers.
Nearly 43 million Americans
will travel for Independence
Day, the highest volume on record,
according to AAA in its annual
travel forecast. The nation’s largest
motoring group estimates about 85
percent will travel by car, as drivers
take advantage of the lowest
pump prices since 2005.
"It’s prompting more drivers
to take to the road," Nadia Anderson,
manager of federal affairs
at AAA, said in an interview.
"We’re seeing more people decide
to take that trip 50 miles or more
away from their home."
The average retail price for
gasoline is down 17 percent from
this time last year, according to
Heathrow, Florida-based AAA.
Regular unleaded gasoline
slid to $2.32 a gallon Thursday, the
cheapest price for this time of year
since 2005.
Three-Day Get-people are starting
to vacation, and
they’re driving instead
of flying,"
said John Auers, executive
vice president
at Turner
Mason & Co., a
Dallas-based energy
consultancy. "We’ll
see strong demand
all summer."
Americans
used an average of
9.72 million barrels
of gasoline a day in
the four weeks ending
June 17, the
highest level recorded since the
Energy Information Administration
started collecting weekly
consumption data in 1991.
Still, America’s travel bug
may start to wane as oil prices
rise, Auers said.
"This isn’t going to continue.
Gasoline demand growth is
going to slow," he said. But, "in
the short term, low prices have really
pushed consumers to travel
more.

Thursday, 28 July 2016 10:12

Happy 77th Birthday To The Coast Guard

The Coast Guard Auxiliary
just celebrated 77 years of continuous
service to the U.S. Coast
Guard. Our local chapter is no
slouch when it comes to living up a
proud tradition of providing assistance
wherever needed by Coast
Guard regulars or helping the public
enjoy our waters better and
safer.
The Auxiliary serves as a
force multiplier to the U.S. Coast
Guard, working alongside active
duty and reserve shipmates performing
similar tasks and has units
all throughout the nation – including
all 50 states, the District of Columbia,
Puerto Rico, the Virgin
Islands, American Samoa, and
Guam. As uniformed civilian volunteers,
its 28,000 members give
freely of their time and talents.
When the Coast Guard
“Reserve” was authorized by act of
Congress on June 23, 1939, the
Coast Guard was given a legislative
mandate to use civilians to
promote safety on and over the
high seas and the nation’s navigable
waters.
Two years later on February
19, Congress amended the
1939 act with passage of the Auxiliary
and Reserve Act of 1941. Passage
of this act designated the
Reserve as a military branch of the
active service while the civilian
section, formerly referred to as the
Coast Guard Reserve, became the
Auxiliary under title 14, chapter 23
of the United States Code.
The Auxiliary’s missions
support Coast Guard operational,
administrative, and logistical requirements.
They promote and improve
recreationalboating safety, as well as provide a
diverse array of specialized skills,
trained crews and facilities to augment
the Coast Guard and enhance
the safety and security of ports,
waterways, and coastal regions.
Auxiliarists not only offer
administrative support at Coast
Guard stations, but they stand radio
watches, cook food, are an extra
set of hands for the engineers, observe
ice flows by air, and participate
in drills to keep Coast Guard
men and women proficient.
They teach boating safety
classes, conduct free vessel safety
checks, and help marina owners receive
the latest Coast Guard regulations
and policies. During times
of natural disasters, qualified Auxiliarists
augment Incident Command
Centers.
The Auxiliary conducts
safety and security patrols, performs
search and rescue missions,
and responds to pollution incidents.
The organization assists during
mass casualty or other emergency
situations, assists with homeland
security and serves as platforms for
boarding parties. Auxiliarists perform
commercial fishing and vessel
exams, and recruits for the
Coast Guard.
Locally, the U.S. Coast
Guard Auxiliary is probably not
what you think. The Coast Guard
Auxiliary is made up of volunteers
that work hand in hand with the
U.S.C.G. in all missions except for
military and law enforcement.
There are over 500 Coast
Guard Auxiliary volunteers in
South West Florida a just over
6,000 from South Carolina to
Florida. Their training is separate
from the U.S.C.G. but they still
wear the same uniforms.
Here in SW Florida, the
Coast Guard Auxiliary offers recreational
boating safety classes once
a month, they will perform a safety
inspection for your boat upon request.
An interesting part of the
Auxiliary is that you can work in
all kinds of different fields from
the Chaplain Corps to a PR person.
After you become a member they
check where your interests or
strengths are so one can be placed
it their area of expertise.
Tom Bramford, who has
volunteered on Fort Myers Beach
for over 25 years, talked to the Sun
Bay about his service.
“We accommodate everyone's
schedule when you volunteer,
you can stay local or if your interest
show skill you can
work on a national
level."
When the U.S.C.G.
is called out in the
Gulf of Mexico or off
the Atlantic for a
Florida search and
rescue mission, they
favor the Auxiliary for
their flat bottom boats
because the Coast
Guards boats can only
operate in certain
depths, or if the waterway
is really skinny,
the call again goes out
to the Auxiliary for
these missions.
When asked what it means
to be a part of the local volunteers,
Dan Eaton who has long been associated
with the Auxiliary in SW
Florida was happy to share his
thoughts with our readers.
“Members take great personal
pride in the ability to become
force multipliers in times of need
and continuously train to maintain
qualifications and develop skill
sets that provide both quantity and
quality support to the U.S. Coast
Guard," Eaton said with equal
pride in his voice.
David Schwartz, another
local volunteer with seven years of
service, added "this is the best
group of guys he has ever worked
with, their smart, and want to advance."
“Members go through a rigorous
training process that includes
online and classroom programs,
followed up by an oral board of review
examination that demonstrates
and verifies competency,”
elaborated Eaton, adding, “we’re
always looking for new quality
members.”
As you can see, the Auxiliary
not only supports, but exemplifies
the Coast Guard core values
of honor, respect and devotion to
duty.
With the U.S. Coast Guard
active duty, reserve and civilian
work force, the Auxiliary stands
Semper Paratus (Always Ready).

Ford Motor Co. executives spared no expense

 
You might remember the giant pink elephant on top of Goben Cars, located at San Carlos Boulevard and Broadway Avenue across the street from the Beach Bowl.This iconic elephant had to be taken down because it violated the county's code regarding signage.  The plastic Elephant had to be taken down by crane and hauled into the showroom.  Where, oh where did that pink elephant come from are you asking yourself?  Don Goben the owner bought it from a guy who runs an estate and antiques yard along with a giant plastic bull paying $5000 and another $2000 for the custom paint over on Pine Ridge.
"Someone called it in and complained" said Pat McCaig, manager of Goben cars."I assume it was one of the neighbors, but I'm not sure.  I'm willing to pay for the information."  "At first I did not like it " said McCaig, "But maybe we can get it into the Fort Myers Beach parades."  "It certainly gets us noticed and people talking, so it started to grow on me."
McCaig had to live with the beast for three months in his home after Goben had closed on the business in November.  Out of excitement he purchased this one of kind decoration, "So once again its back in my life," said  McCaig.
The building was an abandoned appliance store that was remolded into a car dealership with the neighboring DeHays Automotive where they were going to repair the cars they would sell. 20 years ago the building was a gas station and since then it has constantly been changing hands.
The building is home to as many as 20 stray black cats which the neighbors fed on a regular basis, "It has been a Zoo of sorts" said McCaig.  "As a result of the food the birds flew in and we all know what they drop on cars, so this wasn't good.  The neighbors had planted Areca Palms across the canal to serve as a cushion between them and Dehays, "Which we had to tear down for the room so there was a good flow between properties," said McCaig, "So I'm not sure the neighbors love us"
A lot of people were upset about the removal of the elephant like Jeff Burdge, a painter as well as the cartoonist for the Sun Bay Paper who actually wrote a letter to the editor in reference to the removal of the elephant.  Maybe in time things will get better for Goben Cars considering they gave life to an abandoned property.
 
Caption: It brings an element of sadness to no longer see the DeHays automotive sign on this building. For several decades, Larry DeHays was a fixture off San Carlos Boulevard right across from Beach Bowl Now that three buildings in a row have been purchased by Goben Cars, we expect that this spot will remain the place to go when the inevitable breakdown occurs. The sale of DeHays is but one on many changes transforming the main artery to Fort Myers Beach. Just last week, the Sun Bay ran a story on the sale of Sunnyland RV park and the week before covered two developments on San Carlos Island. With the limited amount of land and buildings near the desirable Gulf of Mexico readers can expect this trend to continue.
Monday, 27 June 2016 10:45

Bill Nelson

Earlier today, I spoke with CNN’s Alisyn Camerota about the new bipartisan gun bill Sen. Susan Collins and I recently introduced to prevent anyone who is on the No-Fly List from buying a gun. To me, it’s common sense — if we don’t let someone on a plane because the FBI thinks they may have ties to terrorism, then we shouldn’t let that person buy a gun. 

Another provision included in the bill is one I introduced last week to ensure that the FBI is notified if someone who was once on the terrorist watch list purchases a gun. 

We’re not saying: don’t sell guns to someone just because they were investigated. But having a system in place that alerts the FBI if someone they once investigated is suddenly trying to purchase multiple assault weapons is just common sense. 

Sadly, if we had such a system in place before the shooting in Orlando, it could have been prevented. 

The FBI previously investigated the gunman responsible for the attack in Orlando at least three times prior to the shooting and even placed him on the terrorist watch list in 2013 and 2014.

But because the FBI closed the case as inconclusive, the shooter was taken off the watch list. So when he walked into a gun store in Port St. Lucie, Florida to purchase two firearms — including an AR-15-style assault rifle — which he then used in the attack, the FBI was never notified. 

As FBI Director James Comey told reporters the day after the shooting, “once an investigation is closed there is then no notification of any sort that is triggered by that person then attempting to purchase a firearm when the cases were closed as inconclusive.” 

That’s something that has to change. We owe it to the people of Orlando and the nation. And that’s what I said on CNN earlier today.
 
U.S. Senator Bill Nelson

I wrote a column earlier this week about U.S. workers’ widespread and well-founded anxiety about retirement, and how, in the absence of any meaningful public or private efforts to address those concerns, many plan to work into their 70s.

I proposed that this newly-contemplated fifth decade of work presents a golden opportunity to fund retirements quite cheaply -- for just $16,500 per worker by my estimation -- assuming that: 1) We set aside that money at the beginning of workers’ careers in order to leverage the magic of 50 years of compounding returns, and 2) We invest the money in a straightforward 50-50 U.S. stock-bond portfolio.

The problem, of course, is that very few workers have $16,500 jangling around in their pockets when they start their careers. Nor do they earn enough at the beginning of their careers to save anywhere near that amount. According to the Census Bureau, the average full-time worker age 15 to 24 earned just over $24,000 in 2014.

The unfortunate reality is that the optimal time to save for retirement is when we begin our careers, which is precisely the time when most of us have no money. But there are several ways that government and employers can bridge the gap.

Precious Time

The rolling 50-year returns of a 50-50 portfolio of U.S. stocks and bonds have shown remarkably little deviation.

SOURCE: Bloomberg

Methodology: 50 percent S&P 500 and 50 percent five-year U.S. treasury notes, including dividends.

First, the federal government can simply give every 21 year old an IRA with $16,500. Workers would repay the federal government through payroll taxes over time, which would be a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of dollars that workers currently pay in payroll taxes over the course of their careers. (Realistically, one or two or maybe even three future generations of workers will have to continue paying some additional amount into social security in order to make good on promises to current workers, but that amount should decrease over time.)

We can also give young workers the opportunity to fund their future retirements through public service. The federal government could sponsor a program in which 18 to 25 year olds volunteer to spend a year working in schools or on infrastructure projects or for non-profits in exchange for a more generous IRA contribution of, say, $24,000 -- the average annual income for workers that age.  

The private sector can play a role too, as it stands to gain from a more efficient retirement system. Employers spend a fortune on workers’ retirements through 401(k) contributions or payroll taxes or both. Here again, those costs would be far lower -- and would go much further -- if they were made earlier in employees’ careers.   

Employers are unlikely, however, to change their approach to funding workers’ retirements if left to their own devices. For one thing, as long as employers are required to pay payroll taxes, a good portion of the cost is outside of their control. The workplace also is increasingly transient and many employers would be reluctant to cut generous checks to new employees who can walk out any time.

This is where a public-private partnership would make sense. The federal government can offer employers a modestly better than one-to-one reduction in payroll taxes for IRA contributions between, say, $15,000 and $20,000 that they make to employees under the age of 26. Employers would actually save money by making those IRA contributions, and over time the federal government would also be better off because what it forgoes in payroll taxes it will more than makes up in funded retirements.

How these accounts are invested is equally important. My analysis hinges on a 50-year investment in U.S. stocks and bonds, so everyone has to be dedicated to the task of leaving that money alone for a long time. We also could think of different approaches to how Social Security funds are currently invested, but that's yet another complex issue and a prescription I won’t address here.

In 50 years, our economy will be much bigger than it is today, companies will be making much more money, and, as a result, stocks will be sharply higher. (If that’s not the case, we will have bigger problems than how to save for retirement.) Yes, there will be more than a few scary moments along the way, which is why a 50-50 portfolio of U.S. stocks and bonds is a sensible way to harness growth while balancing risk.

The playbook for a more efficient retirement system is simple. All that's left -- which is undoubtedly the bigger hurdle -- is making it a reality.

Nir Kaissar

Nir Kaissar is a Bloomberg Gadfly columnist covering the markets. He is the founder of Unison Advisors, an asset management firm. He has worked as a lawyer at Sullivan & Cromwell and a consultant at Ernst & Young.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Sun Bay Paper, Sea Level Broadcasting, Bloomberg LP or its owners.

Friday, 17 June 2016 15:27

Bright-Line for the Sunshine State

A Brightline for the Sunshine State
High Speed Rail for South Florida Much Closer Thanks to Private Funding.
 When our Governor Rick Scott visited California last month to persuade business owners living in the Golden State to move to the Sunshine State, his principle argument was the high rate of taxation in California as compared to low-tax Florida.
Yet, in an odd turnabout, according to information just released, a company in Florida that is promoting the first privately funded U.S. high speed railway says it will manufacture its trains in California.
The company that will build the railway is called Brightline and is owned by Fortress Investment Group. While many observers think the concern is taking a big gamble, others, including the company itself is convinced that the rail system is an idea whose time has come.
"Everybody loves trains," said Brightline President Mike Reininger.
Reininger’s background might make him appear unsuited to be running a railroad. He worked for 12 years at Disney, where his main focus and responsibility was too develop resorts. And another Brightline executive came from MGM Resorts. How do you translate resort and hotel experience into a railway company? By putting an emphasis on providing a "hospitality experience" that will mix modernized and efficient transportation with train stations that offer retail and other amenities creating an “attraction” based system that provides warmth and appeal beyond what is currently used in the rail business.
"The train literally reaches out to greet you at the platform." -Brightline President Mike Reininger
According to the company, Brightline cars will feature amenities like oversized comfortable seats, large windows, aisles twice as wide as those on airplanes, hands-free bathrooms cleaned regularly, outlets everywhere, free Wi-Fi, and something it calls a "gap filler," which allows passengers to walk onto the train without stepping up or down.
"The train literally reaches out to greet you at the platform," said Reininger. The train will travel at speeds up to 125 mph making the trip from Miami to Orlando in three hours.
Brightline has already raised $1 billion in equity and debt to launch the first phase of the rail service, which is set to commence next year between Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Using existing rail corridors, the company is currently building stations on land it bought over the past several years. There is also a second phase planned to service Orlando. It is expected to cost an additional $1.5 billion.
Reininger projects Brightline will get at least 1 percent of the estimated 500 million automobile trips taken annually between cities in South Florida and Orlando. While ticket prices have not yet been established, Reininger says they will be competitive with the cost of driving a car.
"At the end of the day, we know we've got to do one thing. We have to change your behavior a little bit. We have to convince you to get out of your car and get into what we consider a smarter way to travel, the affable CEO told reporters."
To the dedicated people working at Brightline, high-speed rail is an idea about to take off in a big way and the company is already looking conceptually at other markets in places like Texas or California.
To get the first trains built, Brightline chose Siemens USA a company based in Sacramento California, the capitol of the Golden State. Siemens is also involved in trying to build its own high speed rail, funded by taxpayers, with a total price tag that could easily top $68 billion., nearly 30 times the price of Brightline's Florida train.
Reininger wouldn’t disclose how much it is paying for its trains but it is easy to see the money needed to build a private railway here in South Florida will be much less than the public system planned for California since it is already projected to be a fraction of the costs, maybe as much as 95% less.
The Siemens USA plant is just a few miles away from the California state Capitol, and thought it has been said the political climate is hostile to manufacturing, that doesn’t seem to bother Michael Cahill, president of Siemens USA's rolling stock division. He said the company has been in the Golden State for 30 years.
“Our company has been in California over 30 years and one of the great things about California is the positive spirit," said Cahill. "In California there is an enthusiasm here that is unmatched anywhere else in the country."
Recently released data shows that Siemens USA increased its 600,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Sacramento by 20 percent to accommodate the Brightline contract. The locomotives they're building for south Florida will run on clean diesel, and the passenger cars are manufactured with stainless steel to make them resistant to rust.
Siemens is busy these days. Not only are they building for themselves and Florida there are other contracts for locomotives and rail cars being built inside the Sacramento plant for other cities and states, from San Francisco to Calgary, Washington to Illinois.
"Our production is growing," said Cahill. "We've added, compared to last year, about 150,000 man hours of work in the factory."
Making Siemens a model of ecologically sound manufacturing is the heavy use of solar power by the company. Cahill said another advantage of remaining in California is the sun.
"Up to 80 percent of the power we use is generated by solar panels," said Cahill and then added,”it gives us a big advantage when it comes to public perception and costs.”
Like a lot of the labor force today, Siemens is challenged by a lack of skilled labor. For example -Welders are in high demand, particularly those who can weld stainless steel. Rather than buck a sluggish and untrained labor force, Siemens started its own training program to develop new talent.
One lady who went through the training program, - 23-year-old Denise Robertson – is already on the job and was seen welding a new train car just this week. Robertson used to solder metal for jewelry, but she heard about the welding training program she signed up.
"It opened up a whole new world for me," she said. "I learned you could actually make a pretty good career in welding."
 
Caption 1 – Michael Reininger,CEO of Brighline, is seen here standing in a locomotive being built by Siemens in California. This is one of ten locomotives scheduled to be built for the privately funded high speed rail system set to begin operations in 2017 serving south Florida.
 
 
BRIGHTLINES EXPRESS TRAIN SERVICE IS CALLED All Aboard Florida on a website that lays out the details of its proposed service for intercity travel in one of the most populous and visited regions in the United States. In the website, Brightline presents “a bright and optimistic view of the future for the millions of residents and tourists who crisscross the state’s highways and skyways annually by offering an important new travel alternative in Florida, the first of its kind in the United States.”



Brightline will use the existing Florida East Coast Railway corridor between Miami and Cocoa, and is building new track along State Road 528 between Cocoa and Orlando. Once complete, it will serve residents and visitors in this area with a train that is billed as “convenient, safe, fast and environmentally friendly”

It is anticipated that over the next eight years, high speed rail will have a high direct impact on Florida’s economy. During construction, it will create nearly 10,000 jobs. It will also require zero funding from taxpayers. And it’s all moving full-speed ahead.
 


To proponents of passenger rail, trains have the capacity to transform the travel experience. They say not only will it reduce emissions and take cars off the road, it will allow passengers to arrive more relaxed, refreshed and comfortable decreasing road rage, accidents and lowering stress for travelers.
 
“From a public health standpoint, getting people out of cars and into public transportation has always been a desirable goal, people just don’t like to give up what they perceive as independence associates with private automobiles. It’s very American to cling to cars, Europe and Asia already use rail much more but it’s advent and acceptance here will be better for all Americans,” said Roger Clemens a researcher who specializes in the effects of transportation on health and well-being.
 
Clemens views are about to get tested since Brightline will launch service between Miami and West Palm Beach in 2017, with service from Miami to Orlando following.
 
In the meantime, All Aboard Florida will be improving the route between Miami and Cocoa, building out the route between Cocoa and Orlando, and constructing modern train stations in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

The website states that:
“Station construction projects at the four destination cities are at various stages. Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM) designed the three South Florida stations in association with Zyscovich Architects. Construction has begun in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, and each station will be completed in advance of the 2017 launch. Suffolk Construction is serving as general contractor in Miami, and Moss & Associates is the general contractor in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. The Orlando station will be part of a larger Intermodal Transportation Center at Orlando International Airport.”
 
Since millions live, work and vacation in the stretch of Florida between Orlando and Miami, Brighline has strategically located its stations near local transportation options, providing passengers convenient access to each city and destinations located throughout the region.

The Orlando Station will be adjacent to Orlando International Airport, allowing visitors from around the world a new and attractive option as they explore Central and South Florida.
All together the project may finally bring a much needed alternative mode of transportation to South Florida and lessen pollution, highway congestion and bring Florida into the modern world of efficient high-speed rail travel. To stay updated on the progress and be ready to take an inaugural trip get connected with Brightline online at allaboardflorida.com to stay updated on progress and news.

In the past few weeks it seems some prominent noses have been tweaked. Because of changes in the wind, lines have been drawn in the sand (easy to do here) and gruff challenging words were spoken. It is well known there are monetary problems within the city but what puzzles most citizens are that none of the troubles ever seem be addressed.  Instead there are such statements as, ‘ we have no money’, we’ll check in to it, I can’t speak to that now, the coffers are good with 6 million in assets( whatever that means), and my two favorites, we change council members a lot, and money comes in and money goes out’. What on earth does that mean?

I would say that probably 75% plus of FMB residents and 100% of business owners know what it means to handle all sizes of budgets.  One buys, one receives (or uses), one gets a bill, and one pays the bill. Rocket science it is not…and if one is not a CPA but wants to know how the ‘state of the state’ is going, one has only to hire a  bookkeeper who shows up each week, or month with actual facts showing ‘money in, money out’, and ‘how much is left’!

Mr. Bobeck speaks truthfully about the city not having faith in all of its employees.  The proper channels to separate Mr. Stillwell were taken with many more people aware than what was stated, as shown by the speakers before the discussion of his removal.   He was aware of the action prior to the meeting and declined to resign….Having said that it is not the actual situation, but subtle insinuations of illegalities concerning Mr. Bobeck that cause a bad taste in one’s mouth.  Somebody had to make a move about the city not being tended to, and it fell upon his shoulders, as mayor. 

City councils come and go…..employees in all businesses come and go….that does and should not cause a company or city to be run poorly.  If the outrageous nonpayment situation had been addressed properly, bills paid properly, and employees taught to do their jobs properly, Mr. Stillwell might not have found himself being let go. If TDC money had not been improperly used to tear down docks…and taken from Mound House coffers, (against the rules), they might still have been standing.   And if the money inadvertently sent to FMB by FPL had been discussed and reimbursed properly (which is the honest thing to do), we would not today have to listen to the collective gasp whenever it is brought up.

We have many community situations to be addressed...Bay Oaks, storm water appeals, Lake O, TDC, and the budget.  This council is very capable of working together as a viable and indivisible unit. Their success is based only on their obligation to work together for the sake of the city they were sent to care for. They need staff to help them concerning rules and regulations and codes; they need city attorneys to be advised and ready for critical opinions; and they need to see how, when, and where the money flows, frequently. Downtown business and residential areas need to be listened to and for different reasons. (i.e. residents don’t need street cleaning, but downtown sure needs power-washed)

 Push on city council…make amends; agree to disagree even….as long as it is in the best interest of our town.

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