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NFM Civic Association: The facts ma’am, just the facts

By Staff | Oct 17, 2018

That’s what Sgt. Joe Friday of the Los Angeles Police Department was attributed as saying on radio, then on television (he never really said it though). Dragnet, documenting real life crime stories, was a popular show. Whether it was a robbery, swindle, or murder, Sgt. Joe was laser focused. He was the consummate empiricist, wanting data, not opinion, first-hand facts, not third-hand hearsay. “Can you give me his height? Weight? Hair color? Any identifying marks? Was he driving a car? A late model? Tell me about his voice? Gravel like my partner or more of a tenor like mine?” That was Joe Friday. Well, we need to be like him. At least for the upcoming election. Many of you already have your absentee ballots and there will be early voting this month. Please, get the facts.

We all know about the referendum on the half-cent sales tax. Or we should.

It is the last item on the ballot. I’ve heard repeatedly that the Lee County School District is growing at the rate of 1,800 per year. I mentioned that to a candidate for School Board. She said that figure is made up, as growth last year was only 800 pupils. So, I dug deeper, wanting to reconcile the conflict. And yes, I found out, it is true that last year enrollment increased by only 800 students. But it turns out, that was because of Hurricane Irma. The stream of new residents to Lee County slowed to a trickle until we recovered from Irma’s devastation.

This year, by Oct.1, the District has grown by 1,500 students. Back to normal. Now, knowing the rate of growth, absent a hurricane, doesn’t necessarily dictate a yes or no vote on the tax, but it is a factor to consider and the underlying facts are important to reach an informed decision. So please, when marking your ballot, whether for candidates or amendments, like Sgt. Joe Friday, take some time, make a little effort, and do the best you can to verify the facts.

So, facts were the subject of our last North Fort Myers Civic Association meeting. School Superintendent Dr. Gregory Adkins provided a PowerPoint presentation about the Lee County School District followed by a question- and-answer session. It was informative and well received.

Did you know in 1886 the Fort Myers wood cabin schoolhouse burned down and Monroe County Commissioners (there was no Lee County at the time) wouldn’t pony up the money for a new school? So, the residents of Fort Myers did the only thing they could do. They created a new county in 1887. Yes, Lee County rose from the ashes of the original Fort Myers’ school house. Trivia, but interesting, and timely.

On to more politics. Tomorrow, Thursday Oct. 18, there will be a debate between the candidates for Florida State House District 79. That’s North Fort Myers, Fort Myers Shore, Olga, Alva, Buckingham and Lehigh Acres. It’s the only debate between House or Senate candidates representing Lee County. It will be between Spencer Roach (R) and me, Mark Lipton (D). We will answer questions for about an hour, highlighting our differences, experience, and policies, as well as any differences from the current office holder, Matt Caldwell. Rep. Caldwell, who termed out, is running against Nikki Fried for Secretary of Agriculture. The House District 79 debate, sponsored by We Vote, will be held at the Shell Factory, beginning at 6 p.m.

As I write this (and I’m sure even five days later when you all read this) the state as well as the nation’s thoughts are with the residents of the Florida Panhandle. Mine are, for a special reason. I was a resident of Panama City Beach for six years before moving to Lee County. Many good friends live there, so my concern over the storm’s destruction is very personal. While it does not appear any of them were injured, I know they are out of power, and may have suffered severe property damage. Some I cannot reach by phone or internet. I know we will all come together offering supplies, hands, and prayers for our Floridians up north. They came down and helped us when Irma hit (I saw the caravans on 75 coming south as I returned home last year, and many vehicles were marked “Bay County,” “Panama City,” and “Panama City Beach.”) We all know there will be more hurricanes. It is a fact of life here in Florida.

But we all know that as Floridians we will come together and be there for those in need.

That’s just who we are.