Whose voice is the government listening to?
May 2, 2018


Whose voice is the government listening to?

To the Editor:

Recent events have made me question; whose voice is the government listening to? Is it time for the people to start looking into the Governmental actions and ethics and start holding them accountable? At the end of the 2016 Legislative session, the Florida Legislature unanimously passed House Bill 7071, which I believe strengthened Florida's public corruption laws. The bill adds those government employees who can be prosecuted for falsifying or concealing official records. The bill also changes the level of intent for corruption offenses to "knowingly and intentionally."

With this new language, I believe prosecutors will be better able to punish bad actors who abuse the public trust. I also believe this bill is a great step towards strengthening Florida's ethics laws and holding government employees accountable to taxpayers.

I have come to question what real voice and effect the public has on an issue that affects them when the Government is involved, whether at the Federal, State or County level. I have become disheartened that the citizens voices have no real impact. In my opinion, this is the case with the Bay Harbour Marina Village Project on San Carlos Island. I feel that San Carlos Island property owners, business owners and resident's voices are not only not being heard but that they are being ignored. Money, time and resources on both sides are being wasted for what reason? Recent events including workshops, meetings and hearings have all had an overwhelming show of opposition for the project happening, but you wouldn't know it from County's responses.

I was disappointed at a recent Local Planning Agency Hearing I attended on March 26th. The Agency did not take the time to look at or review the documentation that had been submitted at the hearing or spend any time reviewing them before making their decision to recommend the approval of the Land Use Designation. They based their decision solely on the Staff report (which was read ahead of time) and minimal 3-minute comments of less than 20 members of the public. The committee did not take any of the documents into consideration that we had submitted at the hearing. A decision was made within minutes with no time for review or discussion.

Furthermore, we had previously attempted to submit public comment documentation to Lee County Dept. of Community Development prior to the meeting as per the protocol and procedures required under the Lee County Administrative Code, but the public comment was refused. If documents are refused, even though they were submitted in accordance to the rules, or the documents are not even reviewed, how are people's voices to be heard? In my opinion the Lee County Local Planning Agency member's minds had been made up before they even walked into the room using only the Staff Report. The hearing was a mere formality, nothing more than wasting people's time. It is my opinion that our voices are not being taken seriously, given any weight or are just being flat out ignored during this process.

Bill Semmer

San Carlos Island


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