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Saturday, 19 September 2020 12:59

Are the Forever Wars Really Ending?

"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?

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Patrick J.
Buchanan

 

 

 

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.

John Haughey
The Center Square

Friday, 18 September 2020 22:37

Searching for Reuben

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,

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right on the water with breathtaking views or about how good their Honey dipped, Bacon wrapped Shrimp

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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.

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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
offers.

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            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.

Crazy, right?

                        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.

Friday, 18 September 2020 10:04

FMB... Town Council report

 

 

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.

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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.”

John Haughey
The Center Square

While COVID-19 forced the closure of many of our region’s family nature-related activities, the Historic Mound House, on Fort Myers Beach at 451 Connecticut Street and on the National Register of
Historic Places, still offers several outdoor events for all ages, complete with COVID-19 precautions. The Mound House itself, however, is closed to the public for the foreseeable future.

Friday, August 7: “Family Fun Kayak Tour”: Age 6 & up weather permitting at 9 a.m.

Fun for the whole family on a specially-designed Environmental Educator-guided kayak tour! See birds, dolphins, manatee, and other wildlife as we paddle through the Estero Bay mangroves. Your family must have children between the ages of 6 to 11 to qualify, with advance registration necessary. $25-per-person age 13 & up; $15-per-person ages 6 to 12. The Mound House provides all equipment, with CDC and Social Distancing in place; All Participants MUST wear a mask on land! Maximum of 8 people per program.

Saturday, August 8: “Mangroves by Kayak Tour”: Ages 12 & up weather permitting at 8:30 a.m.
Explore the winding mangrove creeks and the hidden waters of the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve as only a kayaker can on this Environmental Educator-guided tour of the ancient realm of the Calusa! Witness birds, fish, manatee and dolphins as you paddle through the natural beauty of Estero and Hell Peckney Bays in a tandem kayak. All paddling & safety equipment provided, with kayak tours in accordance with Florida Society of Ethical Ecotourism guidelines. $45-per-person; Mound House members $15. Advance reservations necessary; private tours available. CDC and Social Distancing guideline in place & All Participants MUST wear a mask on land! 8 paddlers per tour.

Saturday, August 8: “Gardens of the Mound House Outdoor Tour”: All ages weather permitting at 11 a.m.
See what is blooming and growing in the Mound House Gardens that make them a great place for local wildlife! Perfect for families and adults, with CDC and Social Distancing in place and All Participants MUST wear a mask! $5-per-person, Mound House members Free.

Tuesday, August 11: FREE “Newton Beach Park Guided Beach Walk”: All ages weather permitting at 9 a.m.
This twice-weekly free outdoor nature program is different every single time, as the “Guided Beach Walks” have a simple premise – the groups walk roughly a half-mile down the beach and back, discussing whatever you find that particular morning, with the wind and waves dictating what comes up each day. Newton Beach Park is mid-island at 4650 Estero Boulevard; meet at the thatched hut closest to the beach, with CDC and Social Distancing in place and face masks MANDATORY. In addition to your face mask, bring sunscreen, shoes to get wet, sunglasses, and hat if necessary. No reservations necessary; while free, parking is $3-per-hour, with one hour generally enough.

Tuesday, August 11: “Gardens of the Mound House Outdoor Tour”: All ages weather permitting at 11 a.m.
See what is blooming and growing in the Mound House Gardens that make them a great place for local wildlife! Perfect for families and adults, with CDC and Social Distancing in place and All Participants MUST wear a mask! $5-per-person, Mound House members Free.

Wednesday, August 12: “Mangroves by Kayak Tour”: Ages 12 & up weather permitting at 8:30 a.m.
Explore the winding mangrove creeks and the hidden waters of the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve as only a kayaker can on this Environmental Educator-guided tour of the ancient realm of the Calusa! Witness birds, fish, manatee and dolphins as you paddle through the natural beauty of Estero and Hell Peckney Bays in a tandem kayak. All paddling & safety equipment provided, with kayak tours in accordance with Florida Society of Ethical Ecotourism guidelines. $45-per-person; Mound House members $15. Advance reservations necessary; private tours available. CDC and Social Distancing guideline in place & All Participants MUST wear a mask on land! 8 people per tour.

Thursday, August 13: FREE “Newton Beach Park Guided Beach Walk”: All ages weather permitting at 9 a.m.
This twice-weekly free outdoor nature program is different every single time, as the “Guided Beach Walks” have a simple premise – the groups walk roughly a half-mile down the beach and back, discussing whatever you find that particular morning, with the wind and waves dictating what comes up each day. Meet at the thatched hut closest to the beach, with CDC and Social Distancing in place and face masks MANDATORY. In addition to your face mask, bring sunscreen, shoes to get wet, sunglasses, and hat if necessary. No reservations necessary; while free, parking is $3-per-hour, with one hour generally enough.

Thursday, August 13: “Gardens of the Mound House Outdoor Tour”: All ages weather permitting at 11 a.m.
See what is blooming and growing in the Mound House Gardens that make them a great place for local wildlife! Perfect for families and adults, with CDC and Social Distancing in place and All Participants MUST wear a mask! $5-per-person, Mound House members Free.

Friday, August 14: “Family Fun Kayak Tour”: Ages 6 & up weather permitting at 9 a.m.
Fun for the whole family on a specially-designed Environmental Educator-guided kayak tour! See birds, dolphins, manatee, and other wildlife as we paddle through the Estero Bay mangroves. Your family must have children between the ages of 6 to 11 to qualify, with advance registration necessary. $25-per-person age 13 & up; $15-per-person ages 6 to 12. The Mound House provides all equipment, with CDC and Social Distancing in place; All Participants MUST wear a mask on land! Maximum of 8 people per program.

For reservations, updates and a program schedule, call 239-765-0865 or see www.moundhouse.org.

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When Americans cast their votes for president, they are in reality directing other people — called electors — to vote for the candidate who receives the most votes in their state. The political party of the winning candidate in each state then sends its preselected electors to the state capital to vote. This is the Electoral College, and its members elect the president and vice president of the United States.

Why does this process exist? The framers of the Constitution established the Electoral College in the Constitution to forge a compromise between those who wanted the president to be elected by members of Congress and those who wanted a president elected by a popular vote.

Today, 538 electors constitute the Electoral College. Each state is allocated electors equal to its number of representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives (currently a total of 435) plus its two senators (a total of 100). The District of Columbia is also allocated three electors. These numbers can change every 10 years, based on the results of the census. State laws differ on how electors are chosen.

Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia have a winner-take-all policy that the Electoral College must follow. That means that a candidate who wins, say, 51% of the state’s popular vote is awarded 100% of the state’s electors.

Since the nation’s founding, hundreds of proposals to reform or eliminate the Electoral College have aimed to change how Americans elect a president. But since the process is defined in the Constitution, only an amendment can change the system. Passing a constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds majority vote in the House of Representatives and in the Senate plus the approval of three-quarters of the states, or a constitutional convention called by two-thirds of state legislatures (which has never happened).

Maine and Nebraska allow electors to be split between parties, proportionally to how their candidates won in different parts of the state. However, a selection of mixed-party electors has happened only twice: in Nebraska in 2008 and in Maine in 2016.

Five times in our history has a president has been elected by winning the Electoral College vote but not the popular vote. This happened in 1824, 1876, 1888, 2000, and 2016.

Two times in our history has presidential election been decided in the House of Representatives because of a tie in electoral votes. This chamber of Congress elects the president if no candidate wins a majority of electoral votes and did so in 1800 and 1824.

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Town of Fort Myers Beach resident Chris Patton, with financial support from the Lani Kai Island Resort, (Robert Conidaris, owner of Lani Kai, told The News-Press last year he would help fund Patton's legal fees.) dropped their latest lawsuit to halt the proposed Margaritaville Resort late on Wednesday, August 5.

This came after Town Council’s Monday, August 3, meeting, where the elective body, supported by numerous island residents in “Public Comment,” resolved to take firm action against the controversial Fort Myers Beach hotel known for its extensive emergency response calls from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) and Fort Myers Beach Fire Department, culminating in a murder on its beachfront early on Wednesday, July 15, as well as its protracted lawsuits to stop the Margaritaville construction.

While not an agenda item, the Lani Kai was the meeting’s preeminent topic. Seventeen residents addressed Council during “Public Comment,” all in favor of the Town taking strict measures to regulate the Lani Kai, including the establishment of a Nuisance Abatement Board to curtail criminal and other unwanted activities.

Mari Torgerson, wife of Margaritaville Board Chairman Tom Torgerson, spoke first, saying that “the Second District Court of Appeals dismissed their appeal on July 8 and on July 9, they filed another lawsuit! Our taxpayers are concerned about the amount of money spent on these frivolous lawsuits, so we ask Council to finally end this fiasco once and for all, as these delays are simply a personal agenda. Margaritaville will be a tremendous asset, as the people of Fort Myers Beach deserve better.”

Marty Harrity, co-owner of several area restaurants including The Whale, directly across from the Lani Kai, added that “‘frivolous’ seems to be the word of the day! Margaritaville received 100% approval from three Town Councils, including this one. It will fix the decaying entrance to the island, except for these frivolous lawsuits. All one has to do is just look at the police reports for the last 18 months of what’s going on in Town. For the past 23 years, I owned and operated The Whale, and watched my sales deteriorate to the point that my partner and I are looking at other options for The Whale. I ask this Council to do whatever it takes to stop these lawsuits and to put a stop to the lawlessness at the Lani Kai!”

Dawn Thomas, who lives near the Lani Kai, said that “since January 2019, our neighbor has had 1,345 LCSO calls, ranging from battery, sexual assault, grand theft, indecent behavior, domestic violence, narcotics, wanted criminals, hit-&-run, stabbings, and now murder. It’s time to clean up this property and hold them responsible.”

Captain Andrew Prisco of the LCSO informed Council that the Sheriff’s Office will establish a Community Response Unit near the Lani Kai by mid-August, but not to confuse that for a LCSO Substation.

Mayor Ray Murphy acknowledged that the Patton has yet to serve him with the July 9 lawsuit. Town Attorney John Herin, Junior, stated that the lawyer can wait 120 days before serving the Mayor, as a delaying tactic. Council unanimously instructed Herin to accept the lawsuit on the Town’s behalf, to move forward the process as quickly as possible.

Council member Bill Veach doubts that a Nuisance Abatement Board will be effective against the Lani Kai, but may be beneficial in future situations, while admitting that the number of emergency calls to the Lani Kai is “quite stunning!” Council member Jim Atterholt noted that in addition to the LCSO Lani Kai calls, the FMB Fire Department made more stops there over the past four years than any other island address, agreeing that “the numbers are stunning! Fort Myers Beach taxpayers are in affect subsidizing their business model and this must stop now; enough is enough so let’s roll!” Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafros would like Council to put together a strategy with the LCSO “to take stronger action in regard to that property.” Council member Dan Allers believed the Nuisance Abatement Board would be “a step in the right direction but will not solve all the issues. We must do everything in our power to end this sooner rather than later.” Murphy noted he met with the Lani Kai ownership “and I see a positive resolution coming down the road!

Let’s see how this thing develops over the next week or so.”

During Council’s Agenda items, they unanimously approved a “Solid Waste Interlocal Agreement” with Lee County; a “Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Agreement” for an Old San Carlos BoulevardTraffic Signal for $695,000; a Matanzas Pass Bridge FDOT Maintenance Agreement for $21,317; will not allocate $54,640 to fund half the pay for the Beach Elementary School Resource Officer; named Murphy as the 2020 “Florida League of Cities” Voting Delegate; and appointed Veach as the “Estero Bay Agency” Management Representative.

 

The U.S. Census Bureau's new deadline to finish the decennial headcount likely ensures census undercounts in Florida that could cost the state billions over the next 10 years and douses its long-shot hopes of picking up a third new congressional seat.

The deadline to finish the count, which determines federal and state allocations for the next decade, now is Sept. 30, four weeks earlier than planned since spring.

The bureau reported Monday that 93 million households, nearly 63 percent of all households in the nation, have self-responded to the census and at least 60 million households remain uncounted. They will need to be ferreted out by 500,000 door-knockers the bureau said it is dispatching to the streets this month.

More than 41 percent of households in Florida failed to self-report and remained uncounted as of late July, Census Bureau Assistant Regional Manager Marilyn Stephens told the Capitol News Service.

“So Florida’s not pleased with where it is right now, and that’s why we are working so hard on this push to get more households to self-respond,” Stephens said.

Areas with undercounts face significant repercussions in not receiving their share of $700 billion in annual federal funding – a projected $1.5 trillion through 2030 – to be distributed by census-based formulas.

An estimated 200,670-person undercount in the 2000 census cost Florida about $225 million annually, or more than $2.5 billion over the decade, according to the bureau.

An estimated 1.4 million undercount in Florida’s 2010 census – the third-highest in the nation – cost the state more than $20 billion in federal allocations this decade, the bureau estimated.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic skewered the Census Bureau’s timelines and the headcount was accelerated by a month, an Urban Institute study predicted Florida’s Hispanic and Black populations would be undercounted and its white population overcounted, making the state’s census among the nation’s most inaccurate.

The Washington-based nonpartisan think tank outlined three scenarios in its census projections, with anywhere from 97,000 to 320,000 people – roughly the population of Orlando – going uncounted, at least.

Urban Institute researchers concluded the census will fail to count about 2.4 percent of Black Americans and 2 percent of Hispanic Americans while slightly overcounting second home owners and seasonal residents, who tend to be seniors and white.

Florida ranks 11th among states in Black residents who comprise about 18 percent of the state’s population and sixth in total Hispanic share of the population, 27 percent.

Florida was slow to gear up for the census. After maintaining for months the headcount was best left to the bureau and more than 120 local committees across the state, Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez in January to lead a 19-member Florida Complete Count Committee.

Unlike California, which has spent nearly $200 million preparing for the 2020 census – New York City spent $40 million and Illinois spent $29 million – Florida did not allocate money for the census.

What may have spurred DeSantis to join 45 other states in lending executive assistance to the headcounters was the outside potential of qualifying for a third new congressional district.

The bureau estimated in January that Florida’s population was 21.48 million, which means the state virtually is assured of adding two members to its 27-member Congressional delegation and gaining two votes in the Electoral College.

Virginia-based political consulting firm Election Data Services, however, projected Florida was about 172,000 people away from adding another seat, nearly 200,000 people closer to qualifying for a third new congressional district than it was in 2018.

John Haughey
The Center Square

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