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Residents rally to reject NFM name change

July 12, 2017
By CHUCK?BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

If the turnout at the North Fort Myers Civic Association's Tuesday meeting is any indication, there are plenty of people in North Fort Myers who are not only happy to live there but proud to call the community home.

More than 300 people - all were wearing red, most angry - squeezed into one of the auxiliary rooms at the North Fort Myers Recreation Center to protest a proposal made by the civic association president to change the name of North Fort Myers.

The anti-name change contingent made its feelings known loud and clear during the near three-hour session that ultimately resulted in the association not only withdrawing the idea but agreeing it would not come up again.

The protest came as a result of reports that civic president Michael Land was going to propose a name change for the area in an effort to give the community its own identity and stop it from being treated as a "red-headed stepchild."

Residents reacted with a petition drive and a posting of colors.

Led by area leaders such as honorary mayor Doug Dailey, they came to the meeting decked out red in homage to North Fort Myers High School's Red Knights mascot with chants of "Red, Red, Red" ringing out before the meeting even got started.

"We're on the side of keeping us North Fort Myers. People here like the heritage and believe in it. When we started the Chamber of Commerce, it was the Red Campaign," said Dailey, a lifelong resident. "The name means honesty, integrity and family values. Everything people on the north side of the river are known for."

Rachelle Hoffman, another lifelong resident, said the proposal to change the name of a town is ridiculous, adding that it would result in great expense to her and her fellow residents.

"It would mean we would have to change our driver's license, addresses, anything that has to do with the bank, paperwork; it's stupid," Hoffman said. "It's not going to be free for anyone. Leave us alone."

Land initially got little opportunity to speak as residents shouted him down. Deputies became so concerned that one of them asked Land to end the meeting.

Land stood his ground, though, and soon, after many of the more adamant anti-name change guests had their say and left during a lengthy recess, the discussion continued. Eventually, the civic association board voted unanimously to reject moving forward with the name change idea, which drew applause from those who remained.

Land said he was thrilled by the response, adding he wasn't worried that things were going to get too out of hand.

"One of the deputies told me I needed to shut the meeting down. I said until there's an act of violence, I want to go ahead with it," Land said. "I want to see this thing through, and I'm glad I did."

This is not the first time someone has proposed the idea of a name change. The Chamber of Commerce proposed such an idea years ago.

As with this go-around, the idea was roundly rejected.

Land brought up the subject again toward the end of a civic meeting in May, where it got a lukewarm response.

But it was a column in The Neighbor a few weeks ago that got the attention of residents and other news outlets.

Lenny Cannova, chamber president, said the focus should be on bringing in small businesses and expanding them.

"We need to beautify North Fort Myers and get rid of these dilapidated buildings, which will attract new businesses," Cannova said. "That will make the city grow, not the name."



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